DISCLAIMER: None of these lovely characters belong to me, alas. They are the property of MGM, Showtime, Gekko, et al. I am borrowing them for my own entertainment and promise to play nicely with them. I make no money doing his and suing would net you only a lot of legal bills.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: 1. I am neither a scientist nor a botanist and have done absolutely no research.   2. Constructive criticism is very helpful; feedback in general is welcome.   3. Romantic relationship stories are not my forte for a variety of reasons--none of which would interest you--so if things don't quite sound right, I apologize in advance.
SPOILERS: In The Line of Duty, Jolinar's Memories, The Devil You Know.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By ocean gazer


"Damn, I hate this planet," grumbled Colonel Jack O'Neill, stepping through the Stargate onto PXZ4855 for the third time in as many days. He was followed by the rest of SG-1 and Doctor Frasier. He stepped down to the hint of a path twisting through the thick vegetation and turned in annoyance to Samantha Carter. "Refresh my memory, Major. Why the hell did we come back here?"

Carter looked past O'Neill at the forested landscape and answered more patiently than even a grouchy superior officer deserved. "Preliminary tests of the few samples we took back with us indicate that some of the plants here may be extremely valuable to us for medicinal purposes." She met his eyes, noting his exasperation, and also knowing that he didn't really need the explanation—his memory was working just fine.

Janet Frasier moved forward to stand beside Carter. "Sir, if you don't want to be here, you can always go back. Sam and I are more than capable of getting the needed samples."

O'Neill turned his glare on her, but it was Teal'c who responded. "That is not an option, Doctor Frasier. General Hammond wishes us to remain for your protection."

Janet couldn't stifle a snort of amusement as she said, "If there was any threat of danger, General Hammond would never have let me come here in the first place. You know how he feels about medical personnel in the field."

Daniel Jackson, who was wandering in a circle somewhere behind the group, echoed that sentiment as he spoke. "She's got a point, you know. I mean, we've done a thorough survey of this place and there are no life-forms." He paused, looking thoughtfully at the sea of green. "Well, besides the obvious."

Janet jumped back in with, "Daniel's right. What are you protecting us from?"

O'Neill rolled his eyes and then his glare deepened. "It's a big universe, DOCTORS, and there's a working Stargate here. Pick a foe, any foe." The corner of Teal'c's mouth quirked, speaking volumes on his usually unexpressive face.

Sam turned her head, making eye contact with each of her companions, then offered quietly, "Colonel O'Neill is right. And the sooner we get to the test site for more samples, the sooner we can go back home and begin our studies."

She hadn't said anything particularly profound, but it did the trick of getting everyone moving in the same direction with no further bickering. O'Neill and Teal'c led the way, with Daniel and Janet next, and Carter bringing up the rear. For several minutes it was single file only—the pathway being overrun with shrubs and branches and thick grasses. Soon, however, the dense plant growth gave way to an open, arid space where cacti and giant tumbleweeds loomed in the distance.

O'Neill grumbled something under his breath and moved farther into the lead as Daniel began pontificating to Teal'c about how odd it was to find two such diverse eco-systems in close proximity.

Janet dropped back out of earshot to walk next to Carter, who was actively scanning the horizon. "Sam, I don't know how you put up with him."

Carter stopped walking for a minute, staring in confusion at the doctor. "Who? Daniel?"

Janet laughed aloud and suddenly her reference became clear. Carter smiled sheepishly and took two long strides to catch up with Janet. "He's really not hard to deal with..." she started, until Janet squelched her with an expressive look.

"Ok, I'll admit Colonel O'Neill can be...um..."

"Grouchy, rude, sarcastic, and condescending?" interjected Janet.

Sam bit back her very unprofessional grin and continued, "But once you get used to his style, he's not so bad. He's one of the best officers I've worked under."

"Well, that's certainly a ringing endorsement," Janet shot back.

"Speaking of sarcastic..." Carter said, shaking her head in mock exasperation, noting Janet's teasing smile. They walked on behind the others in an easy silence.

O'Neill called a halt when they reached their objective—a vegetative oasis in the middle of a sand dune. "May as well get this over with, kids," he instructed, as Carter and Frasier set down their packs and started pulling out the storage units for their samples.

Teal'c stood impassive next to O'Neill, and Daniel attempted to help the women, knocking over everything in the process. They had just gotten everything set up when they heard a voice.

O'Neill and Teal'c tightened their respective grips on their weapons, and Carter grabbed hers from the ground where she'd set it. The three circled warily, Daniel and Janet protected between them, but there was no one else in sight in any direction.

The voice came again, the words, "You are not yet welcome," ringing out distinctly. Still, no body appeared to go with the voice. O'Neill snapped his question into one simple word. "Carter?"

She shook her head and replied in a low voice, "I don't know what's going on, Sir."

Janet tapped Sam on the arm, causing her to jump about a foot in the air. "Don't DO that!" she hissed as she regained her composure.

"Sorry," Janet responded with a complete lack of sincerity. "Look." Everyone's eyes followed her outstretched finger.

A cactus which had been twenty feet away mere moments before, now stood within ten feet of the group. A staff, looking suspiciously like a weapon, was held casually in one of its arms and aimed at the group. As they watched, several more cacti glided up to join their companion, each similarly armed.

"Well this is bizarre," intoned O'Neill. Teal'c nodded his agreement. Sam shared a puzzled look with Janet. Daniel broke out of their semi-circle, walked right up to the plant leader, and began his "Hi, my name is Daniel Jackson, and we come in peace" speech.

"Daniel," warned Carter half-heartedly, knowing he wasn't listening, but feeling the need to say something anyway. Predictably, he ignored her, concentrating instead on the low, dry voice coming from his new-found friend.

"This is most disturbing," Teal'c commented.

O'Neill gave him a long look. "No kidding," he snapped, causing Teal'c to raise an eyebrow.

Janet edged forward from her position just behind Carter and O'Neill. "I don't know if it's more disturbing that we're outnumbered by twenty, or that Daniel is having a conversation with a plant," she offered, earning yet another glare from the Colonel.

He looked over her head to Carter. "Suggestions, Major?"

Sam licked her lips self-consciously, and stared straight ahead. "Well, Sir, it's a little hard to offer suggestions since I don't know what's going on." She took note of the fact that the plant weapons remained aimed at the humans. "I do think letting Daniel do all the talking for us is probably not a good idea."

O'Neill's grimace was the visual version of a hand slapping a forehead. He stepped forward, saying, "Good point."

He hadn't taken more than two steps when Daniel turned around, an unreadable expression lining his face. The cactus with whom he'd been conversing made another long comment, which no one but Daniel could hear. Carter and Teal'c exchanged glances, and Janet started to move up next to O'Neill, until Sam stopped her with a hand across her abdomen.

Janet looked up at Sam, eyebrows raised, and Sam whispered, "Not now; he's not in the mood." Janet nodded her understanding and she and Sam stood side by side, watching as Daniel returned to the group.

The archeologist seemed unable to form a coherent thought and O'Neill finally demanded, "Well?"

Daniel chewed his lower lip, considering, and then spoke with care. "Well, Jack, it appears that the plant life on this planet is sentient and telepathic."

"That is ominous," Teal'c stated at the same time that O'Neill muttered, "Wonderful."

Daniel cleared his throat before continuing. "They've been aware of our presence here and know we intend to take more samples. But before they let us do that, they want to be sure we are people they can trust with what they'll provide. They want us to do a symbolic ritual of pollination, only there's a little catch. Unlike plants on Earth, their pollination is not cross-gender, and...um...is not done with a lack of...feeling.

"And even though it will be symbolic, they are telepathic and will know if it is not sincere. I tried explaining that this is not our custom, but they are pretty adament."

He looked around, as if everyone had followed his statement. The confusion scrolled on the faces of O'Neill, Frasier, and Teal'c seemed to confuse Daniel.

Before O'Neill had the chance to explode, Carter—her eyes open wide with a flash of insight—asked, "What do they consider to be symbolic?"

Daniel scratched his head. "A kiss will do."

O'Neill turned a truly magnificent glare on Daniel and growled at Carter, "You mind translating that into English?"

She snapped quickly into her best military mode. "Sir, it sounds like the plants want us to show them we are sympathetic to them before they let us take more samples. They want us to...um...kiss each other as a symbol of affection, like the way they pollinate, only..."

Her voice trailed off, faced with the irritation in O'Neill's eyes, knowing his eventual comprehension of the situation would do nothing to improve his mood. She took a deep, steadying breath before finishing. "Unlike the plants on Earth, these don't pollinate—that is, reproduce—between male and female. Males reproduce with males; females reproduce with females. So they want us to kiss those of the same gender."

She looked to Daniel for confirmation; he nodded solemnly.

The group stood in silence for a long moment. Teal'c, surprisingly, was the first to speak. "I was not aware that the plant life on your world was of different genders."

"Well," Daniel began, a professoral look creeping over his features, "some are hermaphrodites, but..."

Janet cut him off (earning her first approving look from O'Neill) by saying, "Let's just say it's a botanist designation." She looked around at the waiting cacti. "Apparently it means something...human to these plants."

"Ya think?" interjected O'Neill, taking charge of his group once again. "This is getting a little out of the realm of teamwork." He glanced appraisingly at the cacti, then skewered Frasier and Carter with a look. "Don't even bother to argue with me—we're going to forget the samples and get the hell out of here."

"But, Sir," began Janet. Sam, who had swallowed her own argument, put a restraining hand on the doctor's arm. She felt a surge of gratitude when Janet subsided, considering O'Neill's mood and their odd predicament.

O'Neill turned to Daniel. "Go back and tell them we'll just be on our way and won't bother them any more." Daniel nodded and headed back. The remaining four waited in an uneasy silence.

Several minutes later Daniel returned. "Um...I'm afraid our leaving is not an option."

O'Neill countered, "And why not?"

Daniel gave one of his best innocent shrugs. "They say we have much to learn, and they will not allow us to leave until we do as they've asked. They are insisting on at least one symbolic act."

O'Neill looked to Carter, who answered his unspoken question. "I don't know if our weapons will have any significant impact on plants, Sir. I suspect they can do more harm to us than we can to them." She gestured meaningfully at the sea of green. "And we are also significantly outnumbered."

O'Neill sighed, deeply, then beckoned Carter and Frasier to his side. "I have a bad feeling about this. I want to see if we can get out of this mess without us getting killed in the process." He paused, refusing to meet their eyes.

"You two are close friends, right?" He didn't wait for a reply, continuing, "You are elected as the sacrificial lambs."

Sam glanced at Janet, noticing that the doctor's eyebrows leapt into the vicinity of the sky. But then Janet turned to meet Sam's gaze, and Carter could see that the doctor did not seem at all bothered by the order. Sam was surprised to find that she herself seemed comfortable with the idea, and she resolutely tucked that revelation away for future consideration.

Carter turned back and saw O'Neill's face glowing red with embarrassment. She said a simple, "Yes, Sir," and grabbed Janet by the arm to lead her several steps away from the others.

Janet looked up into Sam's eyes and said loudly, "Gee, and I thought romance was dead." Her brown eyes sparkled merrily and Sam felt a smile crawling across her own face.

From behind them, Daniel—who had finally figured out what was happening—called out, "Remember, they're telepathic."

O'Neill shut him up with a curt, "Daniel!"

Sam took a deep breath and moved closer to Janet, only to burst out laughing when Janet put her arms around Sam's waist and said, "Don't be shy, Sam, I don't bite...unless you want me to."

O'Neill, at the edge of his patience with the entire universe, growled, "Just kiss already so we can get the hell out of here."

Sam slid her arms around Janet, and bent her head down just as Janet whispered, "Men never did get the concept of foreplay, did they?" Both women erupted into giggles, ignoring the exasperated glances O'Neill cast at them.

Then, when the laughter died down, Sam leaned in and tentatively brought her lips to Janet's. The doctor tightened her arms around Sam's waist and the kiss grew in intensity. When Sam finally pulled away, mindful of their audience and mission, both women's mouths were open, and Janet's face was flushed as pink as Sam's felt.

To regain composure and put the others at ease, Carter remarked, her voice painfully steady, "You're a better kisser than my last date."

Janet shot back in a breathy whisper, "Gee, thanks. You actually remember something that far in the past?"

Sam read the amusement clearly and responded by playfully swatting Janet's arm as they untangled themselves and rejoined the group.

O'Neill sounded relieved as he addressed the plants in a loud tone. "We'll just be on our way now." They were turning to retreat toward the Stargate when they noticed the plant weapons moving into a position to open fire. "Damnit," O'Neill muttered as he, Teal'c, and Carter leveled their weapons.

The cactus leader spoke, its voice ringing, "You will come with us. We have not yet given you permission to go."

"We've played your little game," O'Neill announced, "and we are going to leave. NOW. Armed reinforcements will be here soon if we don't return or check in."

The cactus waved a negligent arm. "They can search all they like, but they will not find you. We will prevent it."

O'Neill countered, "All the same, we're leaving."

An odd looking missile shot out from one of the plant weapons, and a cluster of pointed mini-arrows hit the ground at O'Neill's feet.

He swore inventively as he and Teal'c both fired at the approaching cacti, to absolutely no effect. The bullets and energy bolts tore through the plant flesh, but seemed to cause no lasting harm.

Another cactus fired its weapon, and Carter, seeing the missile's direction, shouted a warning and launched herself at Janet, to push the doctor out of harm's way. The bolt hit Carter square in the chest, impaling her with numerous sharp, thick quills. She fell hard, landing on top of Janet. There was a sudden flash of red light, then everything went dark.

Sam drifted back to consciousness when a cool breeze hit her skin. She shivered, then moaned, as the movement sent pain coursing through her chest. A warm hand stroked her cheek gently and she heard Janet murmur, "Shh, it's okay."

She kept her eyes closed for a minute, trying to sort out the disjointed pieces of what had happened. She was lying on her back, her head resting on something soft, but the rest of her body on what felt like stone. Her body felt very exposed, and she came to the sudden realization that she had no clothes on.

Her eyes popped open in alarm, and Janet's face filled her vision. Janet wore a relieved smile, and her voice was warm. "I was really starting to worry about you. You've been unconscious for several hours."

Sam felt her face glowing hot with embarrassment at lying naked with her head on Janet's leg, until she was able to fully focus on her surroundings. She then noticed that Janet was also nude.

Janet's hand still stroked Sam's cheek and she continued in a conversational tone. "I don't know where we are, or where the rest of SG-1 is. The two of us are in a lovely stone cell, complete with private bathroom. I also have no idea what happened to our clothes."

Janet's tone changed to teasing. "You shouldn't be the one who's embarrassed here, Sam; as your doctor, I've seen you naked plenty of times. I think I'm the one who should be uncomfortable."

Sam managed a thin smile at the words, noting almost absently that nothing in Janet's face or posture displayed the slightest sign of modesty or discomfort.

She swallowed, her throat dry, and whispered the first words that popped into her head. "Thanks, Janet."

The doctor smiled, her eyes dancing with an affection Sam had never noticed before. "For what?"

Sam swallowed again, trying to ease the dryness in her throat before answering Janet. She ended up coughing violently, which sent spasms of agony through her chest. For several long minutes, she was consumed by the pain, only vaguely aware of Janet's hands and voice soothing her. Finally she felt able to open her eyes and whisper, "How badly was I injured?"

A note of aggravation played under Janet's words. "I don't know yet."

Sam opened her mouth to ask the obvious question, but Janet's response came first. "I haven't been able to remove the arrows. I started to pull one out, but you bled so much I was scared of making things worse, since I had nothing to help stop the blood flow. I don't think they went deep enough to do any damage to your internal organs, but again, I don't know."

Sam noticed with surprise that frustrated tears were trickling down the doctor's face, and she tentatively raised her hand to wipe them away. Her fingers accidentally grazed Janet's breast before reaching her face. Now, it was her turn to reassure her friend. "It's okay, Janet."

The movement of her arm brought the pain back, but Sam bit her lip and ignored it, her attention focused on Janet's distress. She had never seen the doctor so emotional, so unguarded, and a surge of tenderness rushed through her.

Usually the time they spent together was as scientists solving problems and using logic. And usually they had the tools and technology they needed at their disposal. This situation shoved them right into new territory.

Janet saw the grimace creasing Sam's face and quickly seemed to surmise the cause. She brought her own hand up, twined her fingers with Sam's, and gently lowered Sam's arm. They sat in silence for a long time, hands held tightly, their eyes locked as if the gaze was their only lifeline.

The rasp of the cell door opening broke the shared look, causing their hands to grip more tightly. A ten foot tall ivy plant glided into the room, two smaller plants—both noble fir trees—following it. "I'm Ivy," the tall plant announced.

Under her breath, Janet muttered, "Now that's original."

The trees each held ribbon-tied baskets on their limbs. Somewhat unnecessarily, one of them offered, "We come bearing gifts."

The three plants stood silent and Sam's low voice rang in the cell. "What happened to our friends?"

Ivy slid forward to tower over the women. "They are safe in our education room."

Janet piped up, "Education room?"

Ivy's center leaves crinkled in what Sam could have sworn was a smile. "A place where they can be observed for our education about your species. We cannot teach you things until we understand you better. But do not worry—the two of you are not under observation. The affection you demonstrate causes us to trust you. We have brought robes you may wear, salve and bandages for your wounds, food and water."

Once again, Janet jumped in. "What happened to our clothes?"

Ivy bowed its head—or what would have been a head on any other creature. "They have disintegrated. It is an unfortunate side effect of our teleportation process."

The two fir trees set down their baskets, and the three plants flowed out of the cell, effectively ending the conversation.

Janet freed her hand from Sam's, and eased her leg out from under Sam's head. She walked over to the baskets and Sam's gaze followed her, fixed on the compact and elegant body. She suddenly realized exactly how beautiful her friend was—a realization that seemed about more than just aesthetics.

Janet fished out the medical supplies and turned to find Sam watching her. Sam averted her eyes and muttered an embarrassed, "I'm sorry."

Janet knelt at Sam's side, a smile creasing her face. "You don't have to apologize, Sam." She paused before admitting, "I've been staring at you as much as you've been staring at me." A wry smile twinkled in her eyes. "Kind of like a junior high locker room—it's hard not to look."

Sam raised an eyebrow at the latter statement, and felt a small thrill rush through her at the former.

Janet busied herself with her supplies, and then looked down with a critical eye at the pattern of arrows in Sam's flesh. "Well, Sam, I hate to say this, but this is going to hurt." A lengthy pause, then Janet frowned and continued, "A lot. I wish I had something to give you for the pain, but our hosts only left us with a healing ointment."

Sam offered bravely, "Let me guess; it's an herbal medicine."

She was rewarded with Janet's laugh. "And here I thought the Colonel and I had the patent on smart-ass comments!"

Janet quickly reverted to business, her hands expertly probing the flesh around the arrows. Worry wrote itself across her face as Sam grimaced under the light touch.

Sam looked up and saw the concern reflected in Janet's eyes. Her hand snaked out to rest on the doctor's arm for a moment. "I'll be okay," she said as convincingly as she could, "just do what you have to do."

Janet nodded and Sam let her hand drop away. The doctor set to work on the curving line of arrows poking across the middle of Sam's stomach, up between her breasts, and finally ending just under her left shoulder. Janet efficiently pulled each arrow out and then stanched the bleeding, working as quickly as she could.

Sam concentrated all her will on keeping still and silent. She could see how Janet cringed with every moan or gasp that escaped her throat. The aura of worry hanging over Janet sent a deep surge of warmth through Sam, and gave her a strength of endurance she hadn't suspected she possessed.

Finally, Janet released a profound sigh and wiped the sweat from her forehead. She checked the pressure of the bandage she had applied to the wounds; satisfied, she rose and washed the blood off her hands in the basin in the cell's bathroom. She returned to Sam's side with a wet piece of the bandaging material to wipe the streaks of blood off Sam's body.

Sam reached out and grabbed Janet's wrist in a weak hold. "Thank you, Janet," she said simply.

Janet smiled and patted Sam's cheek. She finished cleaning up the blood and then sat wearily next to her patient. Her hand went back to Sam's cheek. "You're welcome. And the good news is that there's no internal damage. You're going to be extremely sore for a while, and there's a danger of infection, but you should recover with no complications. Your scar will even be in a lovely vine design."

Sam mumbled, "That's good; wouldn't want an unattractive scar.

Already have too many of those."

Janet shook her head in an expression of mock horror. She got up again, returning with a piece of bread and a cup of water. Janet helped Sam sit up long enough for Janet to slide her leg under Sam's head as a pillow.

Janet held the cup to Sam's lips so she could take a few sips of water. Sam swallowed cautiously; her throat felt like the Sahara, but she knew better than to drink too much.

Janet took a bite of bread and spoke with a full mouth. "I wish they had given us ice chips. Just don't get sick on me, okay?"

Sam laughed weakly. "I'll try to behave myself."

After a short while, Sam felt like her eyelids were falling down her face. She confessed, "I'm exhausted."

Janet yawned at the words. "I'm rather tired myself."

Once again, Janet eased herself out from under Sam's head, going over to retrieve the robes they were to use as clothes. Sam, in a daze due to fatigue, took a moment to consider why neither woman had even thought of WEARING the robes. She wondered briefly if maybe Janet enjoyed looking at her as much as she was enjoying looking at Janet. Then she decided that after spending so much time nude already, clothes were pretty much irrelevant at this point.

The return of Janet to her side cut off her ruminations. Janet folded one of the robes, and placed it under Sam's head as a pillow. Janet then lay down next to Sam, the other robe as her pillow.

Janet leaned over and kissed Sam's forehead with a motherly gesture. "Sweet dreams, Sam," she whispered.

Sam smiled. "Sweet dreams, Janet," she echoed. Just before she drifted into sleep, she felt Janet reach out to hold her hand.

When Sam woke some time later, she found that Janet's hand was still clasped to hers. Gently, she pried her fingers away from Janet's and slowly levered herself into a sitting position. She couldn't stifle a groan as her body protested the movement, but managed to get herself upright.

Janet came awake instantly on hearing Sam's cry. "How do you feel?" she offered instead of the usual "good morning".

Sam took stock of herself and answered, "Actually, I feel a lot better than before, but..." Her voice trailed off and Janet nodded in understanding.

Janet clambered to her feet and leaned over to help Sam off the floor, saying, "Let me guess—you were headed to the bathroom."

Sam felt unsteady on her feet and leaned against the doctor, but her voice was strong and full of amusement. "When did you turn into a psychic?"

Janet led the taller woman across the cell, her own tone teasing. "Don't you know that doctors are omniscient?"

Sam laughed as she moved away from Janet's supporting arm and into the bathroom. When she emerged, Janet slid an arm around Sam's waist, and Sam leaned into the embrace, even though she felt strong enough to walk unassisted. She wondered momentarily why she was leaning on Janet, then pushed that train of thought away, allowing herself to enjoy the feel of Janet's skin against her own.

They reached the spot where they had slept and Sam asked tentatively, "Janet, could I sit up for a while? I'm really stiff from lying on the floor." By way of response, Janet led her over to the wall and helped her sit against it.

Janet got herself another piece of bread and turned to see the expression on Sam's face. "Are you okay?" Janet inquired, her voice soft.

Sam nodded briefly and took a deep breath. "There's some pain," she admitted, "but I've been a lot worse. I feel a little weaker than usual, but it isn't too bad."

Janet sat down next to her and Sam could see an impish sparkle in her eyes. "Too bad the only pain relief technique I have is the mom's old standby of 'kiss it and make it better'. Somehow, I don't think that would help."

Sam's breath caught in her throat as she was overwhelmed by all her half-aware feelings at once, until all she could feel was a sudden sense of longing. Dazed by the intensity, she followed her impulses rather than her head.

Sam's voice shook with emotion as she responded, "I don't think it could hurt to try."

To Sam's complete amazement, Janet leaned over and pressed her lips to the edge of the bandage right under Sam's shoulder. She began to work her way down the curve of the wound, and Sam closed her eyes, lost in the sensation.

Sam had never before allowed herself to think of Janet as anything other than a friend—but then Sam pretty much kept herself at a distance from everyone. Yet ever since the kiss, the barriers around Sam's feelings had been slowly dissolving—and she now realized with a sudden clarity that she was incredibly attracted to her warm, smart, caring friend. She could have hardly dared hope for any reciprocation on Janet's part, but the doctor seemed to be showing definite signs of interest.

Sam's breathing came quickly as Janet's lips moved off the wound path and on to Sam's breast. Leaving a wet trail, Janet's lips found Sam's nipple and the blonde gasped in pleasure as Janet suckled it— gently at first, and then with increasing passion.

Janet brought one hand to caress Sam's other breast and Sam could feel her body responding, despite her injury. Sam raised one hand to stroke Janet's hair, and as if her touch broke a magical spell, Janet jerked away from her.

Janet turned, so that her back was to Sam, and Sam started to ask, "What...?" Then she saw Janet's shoulders shaking and heard Janet sobbing quietly.

The cascade of tears served as a cold shower for Sam, effectively quenching her desire. She slid slowly forward and leaned so that her head was resting against Janet's shoulder blades, and she circled her arms around Janet's body.

She was half-afraid the doctor would move away at the embrace. If anything, it seemed to make Janet cry harder.

"It's okay, Janet," Sam soothed, and then Janet broke free of the embrace, turning to face Sam and bury her head in Sam's shoulder like a small child. Sam winced at the pressure of Janet's body against her wounded chest, but pulled her friend closer. With one hand, she stroked Janet's back; with the other, she smoothed Janet's hair.

Despite her earlier arousal and the current intimacy of their bodies, all Sam felt was an overwhelming concern for Janet. It wasn't like the doctor to be so easily emotional.

Janet's sobs were painful to hear, and Sam knew there was nothing she could say to ease whatever was troubling her friend. Instead, she contented herself with holding Janet, as Janet wrestled with her emotions.

After what seemed an eternity, Janet's sobs tapered off and she raised her head off Sam's shoulders, meeting Sam's eyes. Her voice was hoarse from crying as she began, "I'm sorry..."

Sam cut off the apology by bringing her lips to Janet's and kissing her. She couldn't believe the impulse that led her to do that, but it felt so natural. "It's alright, Janet, you don't need to apologize..."

This time, Janet cut her off with a delicate finger to her lips. "Yes, I do." They stared at each other in silence for a minute before Janet continued, nervousness tingeing her voice. "I have been in love with you since the day I met you.

"I resolved to keep my feelings to myself, since I knew your life revolved exclusively around work, and I really was content for us to just be friends. But when we kissed the other day, all my feelings came crashing back to the surface. I thought maybe you were feeling the same way about me, but I swore to myself we would talk about it when we got back.

"I told myself I wasn't going to take advantage of you when you were injured and vulnerable, but I broke that promise."

Tears welled up again in the liquid brown eyes, and Sam realized— with a small surge of relief—that Janet's distress was from thinking she had taken advantage of Sam's weakness, not from embarrassment or uneasiness about kissing her.

Unsure what to say, Sam cupped Janet's cheek with a gentle hand and offered, "I guess doctors are human after all." She was gratified to see a smile dawn on Janet's face, and she reached up to wipe away an errant tear.

Sam licked her lips self-consciously and spoke quietly. "You weren't exactly taking advantage of me—it was my idea, after all."

Janet started to argue, but Sam pressed a finger to her lips. "I know what you mean, Janet, but I still don't feel like you're taking advantage of me."

There was a long silence as they sat entwined, focused completely on each other. Sam could feel her own heart pounding with all the possibilities she had just discovered.

Sam's thoughts were running in circles, and her words came slow and measured. "I'm glad you told me how you feel about me. That must have been hard to do. I realized just the other day, when we kissed, that I'm very attracted to you as well.

"It's like I suddenly want to explore what it would mean to be more than friends. I probably have been feeling this way subconsciously for quite a while, though, for my feelings to be so strong. I mean, I don't usually...I can't remember the last time I felt anything close to this..."

Her voice trailed off and Janet leaned forward to kiss her. It started as a reassuring kiss, but Sam could feel the intensity of Janet's passion. She parted her lips slightly and felt Janet's open in response.

Janet's hands roamed across Sam's back and Sam let her fingers slide lightly along the smooth skin of Janet's chest. She found Janet's breasts and traced their outlines—amazed at her own audacity, amazed to feel Janet tremble under her touch.

Janet brought a hand around to Sam's chest, running across the bandage in one spot. Sam broke away from the kiss with a strangled yelp, and Janet's touch changed immediately from lover to doctor.

"I'm sorry," Sam whispered at the exact moment Janet said the same thing. They shared a fond smile and then Janet untangled herself from Sam, gently laying Sam down on the floor. Sam felt the doctor unpeeling the bandage and couldn't help a moan as the tender skin stuck.

"Damn, you're bleeding again; I should have known better. I'm not being a very conscientious doctor," Janet muttered self-reprovingly, as she went to fetch fresh bandages and more herbal medicine.

She set to work on her patient, unexpectedly bringing a hand up to Sam's forehead. Sam was surprised by how cool Janet's hand felt, and immediately realized the implications. She asked matter-of-factly, "How bad is the infection getting?"

Despite the worry on her face, Janet couldn't stifle a smile. "Has anyone ever told you that you're too smart for your own good?"

Sam rolled her eyes. "Once or twice."

Janet focused in on Sam's face. "To be honest, it isn't looking good. I hope our 'hosts' release us soon so I can get you started on anti-biotics. The longer we stay here, the longer your recovery will take." Sam nodded her understanding and closed her eyes as Janet set back to her task.

She opened her eyes again as Janet moved away from her. Janet stroked her cheek. "Feeling any better?"

"A little," Sam lied, knowing darn well that Janet saw right through her.

Janet patted her cheek, then crawled over to retrieve the robes they'd used as pillows. She sat down, leaning against the wall and instructed Sam to slide back until her head was resting on Janet's thigh.

Janet shook out the robes and then draped them over Sam. Sam reached up and captured one of Janet's hands in her own. Janet's free hand strolled through Sam's hair, her touch soft. "Okay, Sam, doctor's orders. You need to try and sleep some more to help your body fight the infection. I know I let us get a little too carried away before, and I'm sorry. I don't usually let my impulses take over my good judgment."

Sam smiled and joked, hoping to ease Janet's guilt, "Nice to know I'm so irresistable." The smile Janet gave her in response showed she was at least partly successful.

Sam closed her eyes, still holding Janet's hand, and whispered, "I'm really glad you're here with me." She felt Janet squeeze her hand in response before she drifted back into sleep.

"C'mon, Sam, you need to wake up." Sam woke suddenly, and her eyes popped open to see Ivy standing in the room with them.

Dazed, she looked up at Janet and asked, "What's going on?"

It was Ivy who answered. "It is time for you to leave. You must come to be joined with your companions."

Janet offered a one-shouldered shrug, then eased herself out from under Sam, leaning forward to help Sam sit up.

"How long have I been asleep?" Sam asked, her mind still foggy and her limbs seeming not to respond to her wishes. She could feel that her condition had gotten a lot worse in the time she'd been asleep.

Janet responded, "I don't have any way to know for sure, but it's been a long time."

They sat for a minute as Ivy stood watching. Sam took a deep breath, feeling like her chest had caught on fire, gathering her strength in an attempt to stand.

As if Janet read her mind, she got up and helped Sam off the floor. Sam felt like she was in danger of falling, but managed to stay upright as long as it took for Janet to don one of the robes and dress Sam in the other.

Then Janet slid an arm around Sam's waist and Sam draped her arm across Janet's shoulders, leaning heavily against the doctor. Moving slowly, the two walked out of the cell. They followed Ivy into a long stone corridor. When they emerged into the sunlight, Sam was surprised to see what looked like a city park—where the grass was neatly groomed and decorative flowers sat in neat rows.

Directly ahead stood the Stargate, with the figures of O'Neill, Teal'C, and Daniel grouped to one side of it. Each wore a robe similar to the women's, and each looked distinctly relieved to see Carter and Frasier.

Janet looked up and asked the question foremost in Sam's mind. "How did the Stargate get here?"

Since none of the plants seving as their escorts bothered to answer, it was left to Daniel. He turned in a circle, like a professor pacing in front of his class. "Well, I would imagine that..."

Teal'C placed a hand on Daniel's arm (saving O'Neill the trouble) and stated flatly, "We will discuss all of this later, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel blinked owlishly and suddenly recalled himself to where they were. "Right."

O'Neill came over to stand in front of Carter and Frasier. "Need some help, Doc?" he asked.

Sam stiffened at the thought of anyone else touching her while she was injured and vulnerable. She felt safe with Janet's hands on her, but the mere suggestion of anyone else holding her made her skin feel raw.

Janet read her body language perfectly and shook her head at O'Neill. "We're fine, Colonel." Improvising quickly, Janet added, "Her wounds are infected and the fewer people she has contact with, the fewer germs she has to fight."

Sam thanked any available gods that O'Neill bought the story. He nodded at them as they made their way over to where Daniel and Teal'C stood. Sam looked around, noting that their friends—the cacti—had closed in around the group, as if ready to shove the humans through the Stargate.

Ivy waved a vine toward the Stargate and announced, "Once you leave this place, you will not be permitted to return."

The usual dryness pervaded O'Neill's tone as he replied, but Sam saw his hands clench into tight fists. "Don't worry—your hospitality's been great and all, but we really don't have the time to came back and visit."

With a sudden whoosh, the Stargate came to life and Ivy said, "It is safe to travel through. The barrier on the other side has been opened."

O'Neill seemed to weigh the words carefully, then looked to Carter for her opinion of whether the iris really was open. Recalling that the plants probably had confiscated the code transmitter and that Ivy did not seem to intend further harm, Sam nodded a brief assurance at O'Neill.

He waved his team throught the Stargate. Daniel and Teal'C disappeared into the shimmering circle, with Sam and Janet following slowly. O'Neill took the rear.

Sam stumbled as they burst into the gate room, grabbing tightly to Janet to keep from falling. She blinked at the sight of heavily armed soldiers aiming their weapons at the travelers. O'Neill walked past her and Janet to join Daniel and Teal'C, who were staring at a not-very-amused General Hammond.

"Where have you been the past 48 hours? We've sent three different teams to search for you! How did you open the iris and why didn't you transmit your iris code?" Hammond roared.

Daniel scratched his head. "We've been prisoners on that planet.

We didn't exactly come back by choice; the gate was opened for us."

His words did not cause the weapons pointed at them to be lowered. O'Neill's impatience could be read clearly. "It's a long story, Sir, and Carter's hurt." General Hammond just stared with eyebrows raised in a challenge.

Sam felt her last reserves of strength failing, and she sank ungracefully to the metal ramp, Janet kneeling right beside her. She allowed herself to lean against the doctor, but mindful of the soldier's watchful eyes, did not rest her head on Janet's shoulder the way she would have liked.

Sam heard her own voice, quiet, but managing to carry across the tension. "Colonel O'Neill, Sir, tell him what the iris code is so we can prove we really are SG-1."

O'Neill shot her an impressed glance, and proceeded to prove their identities to the General. After a short series of questions, Hammond seemed content to believe they really were SG-1, and the soldiers lowered their weapons.

Someone in the control room paged a medical team and Hammond stepped forward to welcome the returning travelers. "We'll have de-briefing as soon as Major Carter is able to join us," he announced as the medics placed Sam on a stretcher, Janet hovering by her side.

It was two hours later when SG-1, Doctor Frasier, and General Hammond assembled in the de-briefing room.

The team members had been treated for mild dehydration, while Janet cleaned and dressed Sam's wounds. Sam had protested, wanting Janet to get herself examined. Then Sam had noticed the glances the medical staff was sending the CMO, and she had subsided. She had guessed (correctly) that they wanted to keep Janet occupied for a little while, so she wouldn't drive them crazy as a too-knowledgable patient. Truth be told, Sam was just as happy to keep Janet near her.

Sam had been released from the infirmary only for as long as the de-briefing would take, and she sat tired and quiet beside Janet. An IV unit stood behind Sam—administering antibiotics into her system via a needle in her left hand.

The entire team seemed unusually subdued as O'Neill recounted their planetary experience. He stumbled visably as he described ordering Carter and Frasier to kiss. When he reached the part where they all wound up as prisoners, his voice grew tight. Sam could see the tension in his jaw as he breezed over their captivity, jumping ahead to their trip through the Stargate. He stopped abruptly, with not even a sarcastic comment to cap his story.

General Hammond sat, hands folded neatly on the table, as the silence grew more and more oppressive. Sam glanced to the other side of the table—O'Neill and Daniel stared blankly at the tabletop, Teal'c stared impassively at Hammond. She looked back to find Janet's gaze monitoring the others as well.

The doctor raised an eyebrow in a silent question and Sam knew Janet was wondering if she should jump into the non-conversation. Sam gave an almost imperceptible shake of the head, knowing Hammond would ask for their story soon enough.

As if prompted by the thought, the General turned to Janet. "Dr. Frasier, I realize you are all tired and have had a difficult time the past couple of days. But I need to know what specifically happened to you and Major Carter, so that I have the information I need to ensure the safety and well-being of this team."

Sam, watching Janet, could see the doctor knew as well as she did that the General's stated question was actually intended for O'Neill.

Janet's voice echoed calmly in the room as she recalled their experience. She skipped over the kisses and the confessions of attraction, but left everything else in—including her own tears (if not the reason for them), the nudity, and Ivy's comment about the affection between the two.

Hammond nodded thoughtfully, and as Sam glanced again at her teammates, she noted that all three seemed to have relaxed upon hearing Janet's recitation. Daniel, especially, seemed almost ridiculously transparent: Sam could easily see that he was relieved that the women's captivity had been as bizarre as their own.

The General's tone remained level as he said, "I have two questions I have to ask. First, will the fact that you two kissed each other be an issue or a friction between you? Second, why did you remain nude if you had clothing available?"

Janet spoke evenly. "To answer the second question—we were both more preoccupied by Sam's injury than anything else. Clothing seemed irrelevant by comparison. And as for the first question..." She broke off and shook her head emphatically.

Sam spoke carefully. "We're aware of the possible complications, Sir, but we're colleagues as well as friends, and we've already talked about the situation. We're better friends because of it, and we can work together in spite of it."

Sam met the General's measuring look as steadily and neutrally as she could. She could sense Janet doing the same beside her.

After a long moment, Hammond gave a satisfied nod, and turned his attention back to the other side of the table. Sam blinked hard, fighting her own fatigue, and felt Janet's hand—discreet under the table—come to rest reassuringly against her thigh.

In a half-daze, Sam listened as O'Neill described their imprisonment. The men had been given clothes from the start and the plants had not tried further to get them to display affection. Instead, Ivy and two cacti had acted as group therapists. They had tried to get the men to talk intimately about their feelings, asking all manner of questions.

O'Neill blushed as he recited some of the things they'd been asked. Sam shot a sideways glance at Janet, who seemed to be trying very hard to hide her obvious amusement.

O'Neill recovered from his embarrassment enough to make his last statement a sardonic one. "We ended up having the sorts of fascinating conversations you'd expect after large quantities of tequila, but apparently the plants didn't find them interesting enough."

Daniel seemed a lot more at ease now that the entire team was on the same page. He jumped in with, "It's probably a good thing we have no plans to go back."

General Hammond raised his eyebrows meaningfully. "Yes, it is."

Sam and Janet exchanged a puzzled glance, as did Teal'c and O'Neill. The Colonel drawled, "You want to let us in on something here, Sir?"

Hammond leaned forward. "When I realized the implications of some entity being able to open both a wormhole AND the iris, I tried to re-establish contact with PXZ4855 in order to send another re-con squad."

O'Neill slapped his forehead and an expression of extreme annoyance momentarily lit Teal'c's face.

General Hammond continued, oblivious. "It seems that either every single one of our instruments is wrong, or the planet you were on is no longer there. As far as any of the scientists I consulted can tell, the entire planet has somehow moved somewhere else."

O'Neill muttered, "I guess they really didn't like us."

Sam's disbelief at the statement caused her to sit bolt upright. "That doesn't make any sense," she managed to exclaim before the pain hit, and she sank back in her chair with a grimace. Janet immediately put one hand to Sam's forehead, automatically checking her pulse with the other.

Daniel, ever the scholar, began, "Well, if they could teleport us and manifest that sort of energy..."

Hammond, O'Neill, Teal'c, and Frasier all chorused, "Not now, Daniel."

He subsided with a hurt look and Janet cleared her throat. "I hate to break this up, but Major Carter needs to get back to the infirmary."

General Hammond agreed. "We're pretty much done here. Dr. Jackson can write up his observations for me at a later time. There is one thing we need to discuss. Due to the...unusual nature of this mission, I'd like you all to take some down time. Have a chance to sort things out and get rested. You've all been working pretty much non-stop for the past couple of months, and after this mission, I want you all back in top form."

O'Neill started to protest, then thought better of it.

Hammond's eyes traveled to Frasier. "In your professional opinion, how long will Major Carter be out of commission?"

Janet's eyes narrowed as she appraised Sam. "I imagine she'll need to spend a couple days in the infirmary to get over the worst of the infection and regain some of her strength. She should be able to return to limited duty in a week, but no guarantees."

Despite the pain and fatigue, Sam rolled her eyes at Janet. "I'm a lot stronger than I look."

Janet turned her best professional glare on Sam, though Sam could read the tiny twinkle of amusement in the woman's gaze. "This coming from a woman who can barely sit up in a chair."

General Hammond interrupted the brief banter. "Okay—you are all on down time for the next two weeks—and that includes you, Doctor Frasier."

Janet turned her glare on Hammond, while O'Neill smirked at her.

The General met her glare with one of his own. "No arguments, Doctor. You were part of the team; you are on down time. I'm glad to have you all back safely. Dismissed."

He paused to give Sam an encouraging pat on the shoulder on his way out the door.

O'Neill stood and stretched. "That's what I love about military hazardous duty. Lots of forced time off." He turned to Daniel and Teal'c. "Let's get Carter back to the infirmary and then the three of us are going to my house to get very, very drunk."

O'Neill and Janet hoisted Sam out of her chair and she started to insist that she could walk, then realized that she couldn't. Daniel took charge of the IV unit, while Teal'c opened the door.

Since Janet was shorter than O'Neill, Carter leaned more heavily on the doctor, though it was O'Neill who complained, "You aren't dead, Carter; you don't need to lean so hard."

Despite being off duty, Janet got Sam into an infirmary bed. The rest of SG-1 filed out into the hall to wait until Sam's bandages were changed.

Janet stood off to the side as the on-duty doctor took charge of Sam's care. Unlike his staff, who seemed bemused that their CMO couldn't seem to stay away from the infirmary, he accepted at face value that she would want to remain with "her" patient, after caring for Sam on planet. He and Janet exchanged a few professional observations and then he left to retrieve SG-1.

After the team had filed into the room, O'Neill turned to Janet. "You want to come over to my place, Doc? Do a little post-mission unwinding?"

Sam held her breath, not wanting Janet to leave just yet, but not wanting to restrict her friend. Without even looking to Sam for guidance, Janet declined.

"I'm going to stick around here for a while. I'll keep Sam company until she falls asleep, and then I need to get home to Cassie. No doubt she'll be over at the neighbor's in the midst of a videogame, but I need to spend some quality time with her. She's probably been more worried than she'll let on."

The trio promised to come back in the morning to visit, though given their plans for the evening, Sam didn't expect any of them to be up and functional before mid-afternoon.

O'Neill led the way out of the room and the medical staff went to make rounds and file paperwork, leaving the two women alone. Janet pulled a chair up to the bed, her hand resting right next to Sam's arm, though not quite touching.

Sam felt a stab of concern as she looked up and saw the purple circles under Janet's eyes. "Are you okay, Janet?" she asked anxiously.

Janet laughed. "I'm a hell of a lot better than you are!" She paused as Sam reached up to touch her cheek tenderly. "I need a good night's sleep, but I'll be fine."

Sam fought to organize her thoughts into something coherent. She stumbled as she asked, "Are you okay, I mean with us...exploring...we have to work together and..." She felt frustration welling up at her inability to express herself clearly.

Janet sent her hand to smooth the hair off Sam's forehead; it was a gesture that looked completely innocent, but Sam could tell the touch was not doctorly.

Janet's voice came in a silky whisper that wouldn't carry farther than Sam's ear. "I am more than okay with us exploring what this relationship means to us. And I have no doubt that we can work together no matter where our relationship goes.

"Despite my impulsiveness when we were prisoners, I am a doctor who is well-trained in detachment. And you, Samantha Carter, are VERY good at keeping your feelings hidden...even from yourself."

Janet paused, looking intently down at her friend. "Are you okay with this, Sam?"

Sam nodded her head carefully, trying not to over-extend herself. Her whisper echoed Janet's. "I am honestly fine with this. A little scared, maybe, of being vulnerable. But I trust you, Janet. And I know we can work together, no matter what."

As if the need for that particular conversation had been the only thing keeping her awake, Sam yawned, suddenly exhausted.

Janet smiled down at her, and Sam felt like the sun had just come out after a rainstorm. Janet's hand still stroked her forehead, and Janet said softly, "Just go to sleep, Sam. We've got plenty of time to talk later."

Sam nodded and closed her eyes, whispering, "Thanks for being here. It means a lot."

The last thing Sam heard as she drifted to sleep was the gentle promise, "I'll be back tomorrow."

Sam sat curled up on one end of Janet's couch, giving her friend a foot massage. After the past few days of being completely inactive in the infirmary, Sam relished the thought of actually doing something.

Oh, she had had plenty of time to have a psych evaluation (courtesy of General Hammond), to explain to O'Neill yet again how wormholes worked in the simplest terms she could, and to play hours of computer games with Cassie. But none of those activities had quite quenched her restlessness.

Oddly enough, the psych evaluation had done the most for her restless feelings, since she had been allowed to leave the infirmary to have it. She and Janet had both had one—it was, as the General put it, simply for his own reassurance over the well-being of his team. Both had passed with excellent scores, though Sam had wondered idly how exactly one grades something like that.

Janet had insisted that Sam come and stay with her and Cass upon her release, and for some reason, Sam didn't feel like arguing.

Now the two were enjoying the first time they'd had alone since being prisoners. For months, Cass had pleaded with O'Neill to take her camping, and he finally caved in. He and Teal'c had arrived promptly after dinner to take Cass up to a cabin in the mountains. Cassie had been thrilled, since a friend of O'Neill's would be there, as well, with his 15 year old daughter. And Daniel had enthusiastically run off to an archeologist convention or conference or something. He had actually apologized to the two women, apparently feeling bad that all of SG-1 was running off and leaving them for seven days.

Sam had nearly choked in her attempt not to laugh when Janet called up a martyred sigh and told him, "Well, I really should stay here and play doctor for Sam. You guys just have fun for us."

Sam shifted on the couch into a slightly more comfortable position. She felt pretty much back to normal, since her injuries were healing without complications and she'd managed to regain her strength, but her chest still was fairly sore.

Janet snapped her eyes open as Sam moved around, and asked, "Are you okay?"

Sam chuckled and kept her hands busy with Janet's feet. "I'm fine," she insisted. "You don't have to keep asking."

Janet rolled her eyes and snuggled herself more firmly into the cushions.

For a while, there was no conversation. Sam found herself suddenly shy in Janet's presence, as if somehow recent events were a dream that would dissolve into mist at the slightest bit of conversation about anything more in depth than the weather.

Finally, Janet sighed deeply and pulled her feet reluctantly out of Sam's hands. "You'd better stop before I fall asleep," Janet murmured. "You have very talented hands, Samantha Carter."

Sam felt her face flush and her heart skipped a beat or two. Feeling like an insecure teenager, she said (in a voice that sounded funny to her own ears), "If you're tired, you can go to bed...I mean, if you want to...it's fine..."

Her inner voice ran through all the things she should have said, but Sam tuned out the monologue since Janet was sliding closer to her. Janet stopped when her thigh was pressed firmly against Sam's.

Janet reached out and traced the underline of Sam's jaw, her fingers light and tentative. "I don't want to fall asleep." Her fingers moved down to stroke Sam's neck, and a shudder of emotion shook Sam. Janet pulled her hand back. "I'm not moving too fast, am I?" Janet whispered. "I mean, I know you're injured and I'll be careful, but..."

Whatever else she might have said was lost when Sam leaned forward carefully to kiss Janet briefly. She cupped the brunette's cheek with her hand, and stared into the liquid brown eyes.

"You're fine, Janet; you're more than fine." She paused to search for words and felt Janet's hand reach up again to caress the back of her neck. Sam's voice dropped to a bare whisper. "I have never felt this way this quickly about anyone before. It's incredible and I can't believe this is really happening."

Janet's answering laugh rang low and husky. "Tell me about it," she reponded. "I was thrilled just having a friend who actually understood my love of science and my career orientation. And having that friend become more than a friend is..." Janet couldn't find the appropriate words to finish.

They hung in time for what could have been hours, hearts pounding, eyes locked. Sam's hand stroked Janet's cheek; Janet's hand caressed Sam's neck.

Sam leaned forward again and pressed her lips to Janet's. The kiss was gentle and undemanding, as if they had all the time in the world. Sam's lips opened and she felt Janet's tongue probing. She welcomed the exploration, her own tongue snaking out to seek the warmth of Janet's mouth.

Sam trembled with the intensity of her emotions as she brought her hands to Janet's chest, stroking her breasts lightly through the soft sweatshirt. In response, Janet's mouth tightened against Sam's, the passion flowing like an electric current.

Janet's own hands, mindful of the bandages, came around to fondle Sam's breasts through her tee-shirt. Sam pressed herself against Janet's fingers, amazed at how even the softest touch could spark such tingling through her entire body.

Sam groaned through the kiss when Janet's hands dropped away, then groaned again as she felt Janet's hands lift her shirt and run along bare skin, still careful of the bandages. Janet's fingers sought out Sam's now hard nipples, teasing them gently.

Sam followed Janet's lead, her own hands busy under the sweatshirt to remove Janet from her bra. The brunette chuckled against Sam's lips as the blond finally managed the task. Sam pulled her mouth away from Janet's just long enough to mutter, "Brat."

She pressed her mouth back to Janet's as her hands explored the newly freed flesh. She felt Janet quiver under her touch, and she sent her hands lightly over the muscles of Janet's stomach, running seductively along the waistband of Janet's jeans.

Janet responded by reaching down and sliding one hand under the cotton of Sam's sweatpants, her other hand still busy with Sam's breasts. Their kiss grew more intense as Janet's hand slid lower. Sam could feel herself growing wet and could almost feel the arousal radiating from Janet's body.

Sam clutched tightly to Janet's back as Janet sent her fingers to dance across Sam's underwear, teasing. Sam bucked instinctively, her body crying out for Janet's more intimate touch.

And in that moment, Janet's other hand slipped just as Sam arched up. Janet's fingers hit the bandaged wounds and Sam broke away from the kiss with a cry of pain, pressing her head into the back of the couch.

Janet's hands pulled away from their explorations and she sounded close to tears. "Oh God, Sam, I didn't mean to hurt you."

Sam bit her lip and shook her head. "I know, Janet. It's not your fault...I really want this..."

As if Janet read the stuttering thoughts parading through Sam's mind, she pulled Sam into a hug. They sat in the embrace for a long moment, their heartbeats slowing, their ardor cooled by the un-welcome intrusion of pain.

Janet kissed the top of Sam's head and told her softly, "I would love nothing more than to make love to you, Sam, but I don't think your injuries are quite healed enough for that."

The combination of longing, frustration, and pain reduced Sam to tears. She buried her head in Janet's shoulder, overcome with emotion. Janet held her carefully as she sobbed, soothing her with hands and voice.

Finally, Sam pulled away and said shakily, "I can barely remember the last time I cried."

Janet patted her cheek tenderly. "It's catharsis, Sam; it's good for you."

Sam felt the warmth of affection flood through her, though her tone dripped amusement as she asked in a quiet voice, "When did you turn into the local psychologist?"

"It's one of the side effects of working with all you strong, stoic military types," Janet quipped dryly.

Sam pressed a kiss to Janet's wrist. "Don't forget, you're a military type too," she pointed out to the doctor.

Unfazed by the comeback, Janet retorted, "Yes, but I'm the sensitive kind." She punctuated her sentence with an impish smile, and Sam melted at the sight. She kissed the inside of Janet's wrist again.

Then Janet moved beside her, sliding back until she was reclining comfortably against the arm of the couch, pulling Sam with her. Sam found herself on her side, snuggled against Janet's body, Janet's legs outlining Sam's.

Sam's head rested just under Janet's shoulder and Janet's arms wrapped around Sam protectively. Sam reached up to lazily stroke Janet's neck.

"Thanks for being patient, Janet," Sam offered in a whisper, the tears threatening to well up again. "I really do want to make love to you...I'm sorry."

Janet answered by kissing Sam's forehead. "You don't need to apologize. We've both spent way too much time apologizing recently."

One of Janet's hands moved up to run through Sam's hair. Sam gave a deep sigh, losing herself in the pleasure of feeling safe and cared for, as Janet continued to stroke her hair softly. She kept her hand resting against Janet's neck, taking comfort in the steady beat of the other woman's heart.

"Besides," Janet murmured, her breath warm against Sam's forehead, "you're healing very fast, and we have lots and lots of free time."

Sam chuckled and snuggled tighter against Janet. They lay entwined, enjoying the intimacy, content—for now—to simply know they both wanted the same thing. Sam listened as Janet's breathing slowed, and felt herself lulled to sleep by the warmth of the body beneath her.

Sam's last conscious thought was that despite her injury, she was grateful for sentient, telepathic plant life.

The End

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