DISCLAIMER: If I owned them, Sam and Janet would have good hair simultaneously in every season.
THANKS: to Xander for fixing it, and naming it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Harriet

I'd just finished my little post-mission check up, got the shot in the ass, BP taken, throat checked, etcetera, and the phone rang. Some nurse whose name I'd never bothered to learn handed the phone over, and when Janet heard the voice on the other end, she lit up in a way that made my stomach flip in a not-completely-unpleasant manner.

I watched as she pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, laughing on the phone to Cassie. Her hair was in that in-between phase again, a hundred different lengths, none of them long enough to reach her shoulders. I liked it this way, even though it fell in her face half the time. Plus it was a little lighter than her natural dark chestnut; she must have gotten highlights from that ridiculous "stylist" André this week, maybe yesterday. To me it's not worth the money, but I'll admit, he does a great job. She looked wonderful. It was nice to actually admit to myself that she was gorgeous.

Mark was right. I had it bad, and Janet didn't even know it.

Spending time with Dad, Mark, Lily and the kids over Christmas was fun, but I missed Cass and Janet more than I'd expected. I'd called them in Colorado every day, catching up, telling stories, just listening, and each time I hung up I'd wished they were with me. Christmas day, after spending an hour on the phone mostly with Janet, Mark asked, "Was that your girlfriend?"

I stiffened marginally, but played it off. "No, ass, that was Janet."

Mark smirked. "I repeat, was that your girlfriend?"

I peered at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's just a question, Sam. No guys on the horizon, right? And there haven't been in a long time. But for the past couple of years, you've had Janet on the brain." I tried to watch Dad's expression out of the corner of my eye, hoping he wouldn't flip out as Mark went on. "You call every night, you talk about her incessantly--"

"I talk about her *and* Cassandra."

"Yeah. But still, you talk about her incessantly. It's not a trick question, Sam. I just wanted to know."

I could tell he meant it by the look in his eyes, so while pretending Dad wasn't sitting right there, I'd tried to answer as honestly as possible. "She's not my girlfriend," I said. I could hardly find my voice to finish. "But I guess I wouldn't mind." I braced myself for an outburst from someone, anyone. None came.

"Have you talked to her about it?" Mark responded.

I looked up at him. "Are you kidding? This is the military, even you know the rules. I could get tossed out on my ass."

Dad finally said something. "Do you really think Janet would betray your trust that way?"

I looked intently at him, searching for the derision I'd half expected. Finding none, I replied, "Not really. But I don't want to mess it up." *It* meant everything, because Janet was a part of it all.

Gazing into my eyes, Dad told me simply, "Don't waste your life waiting for a chance that may never come, Sam. It could pass you right by if you don't take a leap." For a moment I'd thought I saw the ghost of light that was Selmak behind his eyes, but it was gone in a flash.

That got me to thinking.

After the holidays I came home. Went about my business, worked too much, pushed my muscles to the point of pain in the gym, slept little. Ran every morning and tried not to get too worked up over whatever was going on in my brain every time I looked at Janet. Jumps distracted me, new projects popped up here and there, and I sort-of-not-really-well-kind-of drifted away from Janet, and by extension, Cassie.

Three weeks later, I had a visitor. Janet came to me, concerned that I was "withdrawing" from her. It shocked me that she'd noticed; I hadn't thought it was at all obvious. She'd frowned as she said, "You didn't call last weekend. And that day I was off base, I never heard from you."

I grimaced. I remembered I'd had to grill Warner to find out that Janet was taking the morning off to go to the dentist. When she didn't return to work, I'd been a little worried, but forced myself not to call. For some reason, it had irritated me that I wanted to know every last detail about her, so I refused to allow myself the luxury of even leaving a message on her machine.

"I just thought, you know, you had stuff to do."

"I did. I had a root canal."

"What?" I think I blushed for some reason, suddenly furious with myself that I hadn't made the effort. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Cassie drove me home and kept me fed." She'd stared at me, the hurt showing through. "I thought you'd call."

I felt like a heel. "I'm sorry," I said, my head drooping. "I didn't want to bug you too much."

"Sam," Janet had said, placing her hand under my chin and lifting my head, "You never bother me."

I'd frozen, staring into the deep brown eyes I'd never realized were so dark. Felt sick to my stomach, shaky. The universe stilled, and the phone rang. Fucking Jonas wanted to ask me something about some dumb ass translation from some dumb ass planet we'd been on three years earlier. Janet left, and I'd stabbed a pencil into the bulletin board so hard it went right through.

I started calling the Fraiser household again, we resumed weekly family dinners, and I became less "withdrawn". Instead of spending my days trying to convince myself I wasn't totally crazy about my own personal medical care professional, I wondered if I'd ever have the guts to reveal my feelings.

Feelings. I suck at them.

With Jonas, not Quinn that is, it wasn't about feelings. I don't know what it was about, really. He was charismatic, a good kisser, and had a particular kind of self-assurance I'd always admired. Too bad admiration doesn't pass for love in the long run. Thank goodness I'd had the sense to break it off. The sex was fine, I guess, which probably means it was pretty bad. On the other hand, I liked Narim-- he was sensitive. Brilliant. And he really, really liked me. I suppose I felt safe enough to grow close to him since I knew in the end he'd leave, and I'd stay.

Because I'd never walk away from Janet.

Anyway, Janet laughed on the phone with Cassie, and I loved the way her mouth moved, how the muscles in her shoulders seemed to open up slightly as she relaxed. I could hardly bear to watch, but I couldn't turn away either. I hoped that nameless nurse didn't catch me gaping as I observed her.

"Come for dinner tonight?" Janet said over the receiver, still holding it to her ear.

I nodded.

She smiled, and spoke into the handset. "That works. Thanks, kiddo. I owe you." Pausing to listen, she "uh-huh-ed" a couple of times, then rang off. "How's seven?" she asked me.

"That's fine. I can stop home to change."

"If you like," she said breezily, before heading for a microscope and scribbling something in a small notebook.

"See you later then. Should I bring something?"

"Nope," Janet said, "just yourself."

I showed up at 7:06. Didn't want to seem too eager, but also not annoyingly late. I'd considered arriving empty handed, but I hated feeling like a mooch, so I brought some brownies and a bottle of wine from Albertson's. I knocked on the door with the brass lion's head I'd added myself, and the solid thumps were satisfying to my ears. Quickly I ran a hand through my smushed hair, cursing the helmet that always made me look like I'd just rolled out of bed.

The door swung open. "Hey, come on in," Janet said. I followed her inside, and kept my eyes well above the rear so nicely covered by some extremely worn out jeans. Just in case. "I told you not to bring anything."

"I know, but..."

"But you didn't want me to think that you were using me for my cooking."

I grinned. "Something like that." When we reached the dining room, I stopped. The table was set with flowers, and the lights were lower than normal. Two plates caught my eye. Not three, two. As I trailed after Janet into the kitchen, I wondered what was going on. I set everything down, and Janet left a corkscrew next to me, which I supposed meant I could open the wine. "Is Cassie here?" I said, and cursed myself for how my voice broke.


I blinked at Janet's back. "Okay." I carried the wine into the dining room and poured myself a glass. Quickly I took a huge swig, relishing the warmth as it burned its way down my throat. I filled two glasses and with effort, left the bottle on the table without taking another gulp. My face was hot. Being alone with Janet minus the buffer of Cassie seemed like a rotten idea all of a sudden, but I certainly couldn't bail. I just breathed deeply and went to the kitchen to see if I could do anything. "Need a hand?" I asked.

"Not really, but you can carry the salad in." She handed me a bowl replete with tongs, which seemed oddly formal considering it was just the two of us. Hell, I usually scooped out salad with my own fork when I came over for dinner; we didn't stand on ceremony most nights. I sat down at the table, salad bowl in my lap, feeling strangely light headed. Looking down at the bowl, I noticed there were no onions in it. I hate onions. And there were big tomatoes, not the cherry ones that I'd complained about over and over at the commissary.

Janet strolled in wielding a dish of asparagus and a huge steak that would easily feed us both twice. When she set them down, she asked, "What happened to the salad?"

I lifted the bowl from my lap.

She snorted. "Do you want to eat it all by yourself?"

I shook my head, and she frowned. "Sam," she said, sitting slowly. "You all right?"

"Yeah. I don't know what's wrong with me." I didn't tell her how the air felt strangely thick and humid in the house, that my limbs felt heavy and slow. That this somehow seemed like a date.

Her mouth set firmly. "Maybe this was a mistake."

"Huh?" I finally set the salad bowl on the table.

"Nothing. I mean, nothing." She stood to turn the lights up higher, and the shock of brightness propelled me out of my chair. "I'll just get the--"

Without thinking, I grabbed her arm. "What did you mean?"

She looked up at me, and those brown eyes, always so much darker than I remembered, were all I could see. I couldn't read what they were telling me-- I wasn't kidding when I said I suck at this feelings stuff. My father's words echoed in my head, the ones about wasting my life.

I did something I never thought I'd do, and kissed her.

Janet gasped and for a second I thought she'd pull away. But she seemed only to be taking a breath before grabbing me by the hair and latching onto my mouth. Her lips were soft, and I did my best to try not to let my mind talk me out of what I was doing, what we were doing together. Instead I shoved her against the entryway to the kitchen and slid an arm behind her neck. The hand not ripping at my hair yanked my shirt and pulled me close. It was good, so good in fact that it eclipsed in a moment all the kisses that came before. Suddenly, Jonas seemed like such an average kisser that I wondered how the hell I hadn't noticed. Selective memory, I decided, as Janet's teeth scored my bottom lip.

I groaned, and Janet pushed me into the kitchen up against the counter. She seemed irritated to be so much shorter than I, so she made do with tugging my head down again to meet her own. I had no problems with that, even though my lower back was aching from a visit to the gym that day. Her hands slid up my back, fingernails drawing invisible lines along my spine, and my knees gave way from the pure sensation. I fell, and she looked down almost as if surprised to find me gazing up at her, open mouthed and panting.

"What," she said, out of breath.

"Huh?" I grunted. I couldn't even think, too consumed with the feel of the lush curves of her hips under my hands.

"Why did you stop?" she asked, looking more nervous than before.

"I didn't mean to. My legs quit working." It didn't occur to me to hide that the pleasure of her kiss was so great that my muscles melted.

She laughed and leaned down to press her lips to mine, sliding her tongue inside so sweetly I moaned. Janet lifted her head and watched me for a moment. "I thought for a minute in there that you weren't ready."

It suddenly sounded to me that she was in the middle of a conversation I'd missed. "What do you mean?"

"You had this look on your face that you were terrified to be near me. I thought I'd misread the signs."

"What signs?"

"The ones you've been giving me for the past six months."

I cocked my head to the side. "I've been giving you signs?"

Janet straightened up a bit, but that only pushed her breasts closer to my face. I thought for sure my brain would short circuit, but I managed to stay at least half alert. "Yeah. I was worried I'd missed my chance when you started pulling away, but then we had that talk, and you looked into my eyes, and I just knew..."

I felt completely out of it. "Knew what?"

"That you were ready. You'd figured it out."

I was going to have to make her spell it out for me. "Figured what out?"

"That I wanted to be with you."

The air left my chest as though I'd been punched. Her kiss ought to have been enough of a signal, but somehow the words had more of an impact. "You do?" I yelped.

She pushed some hair behind my ear. "Of course, silly. Couldn't you tell?"

Janet looked down at me, and though I had definitely missed 40 or even 50 percent of a conversation we'd apparently never had, I'd heard the important thing: she wanted to be with me. I'd figure out this signs stuff later. "Yeah, I guess I could tell."

But slowly her frown was returning. "Wait, you mean, you weren't giving me signals?"

I didn't know what to say, so I just fudged the truth a bit with an assured laugh. "No, I was definitely giving you signals." Her mouth twitched. "I just couldn't quite focus for a minute there. I think I blew a gasket with that kiss."

The frown vanished, and a smile appeared. "It was awfully nice, wasn't it?"

I licked my lips and grasped her forearms to help myself stand again. "Nice doesn't even come close," I whispered, leaning down to capture her mouth.

We had dinner sitting very close together on the couch, after I moved the flowers to the coffee table and lit some candles. She put jazz on the stereo, and we made out while feeding each other. It was the best date I'd ever been on, and I hadn't even known it was going to be a date.

It escalated to the point that my shirt came off, and when my hand was getting to know what was inside her bra, I think I must have had a flashback to high school when Caleb Escher's parents walked in just as he was making a pass at me over our calculus homework. In that second I remembered that somewhere in the universe, her daughter was roaming around and could at any second stumble upon us. "Oh shit," I squeaked. "Cassie could walk in!"

Janet grabbed my hand and replaced it. "She's staying with Carly. It's all arranged."

I blanched. "You mean..."

"She helped me cook, and picked up the flowers since I didn't have time tonight."

"She knows about... this?"

"Sam, she's my daughter. It was a little obvious."

Again, I was drawing a blank. What the hell was obvious? I had no clue. However, not one to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, I just nodded. "Oh, yeah. Sure." We went back to kissing, and kept on going.

I stayed the night, and of course, it again eclipsed my experiences of the past. I hadn't been with a woman before, but Janet seemed to know what she was doing, and I learned very quickly by example. It was easy, and wonderful, and everything I'd dreamed of as a girl, but lost hope in as a woman.

The next morning I wanted to haul ass out of the house in case Cassie came home, so I made a promise to return for lunch. As though Cass wouldn't know what happened anyway. I drove my bike home, muscles warm and lucid, smile etched permanently on my face. I felt great. Fantastic. I was in love.

It was hard not to call as soon as I got home. It got progressively harder as the hours passed. Noon had barely hit when I returned to swagger up to the front stoop. Cassie greeted me with a grin.

"Hey, Sam. You look... relaxed."

I refused to give in to what was undoubtedly a tease. "Thanks. It's Saturday, I am relaxed."

"Yeah, right," the girl said. "So I take it things went well last night?"

"You could say that," I hedged.

"That's a relief. I was hoping you wouldn't be blindsided."

Straightening up, I asked, "What do you mean?"

"I thought maybe the hints she was dropping were too subtle." Cass must have recognized the fear on my face. "Uh oh."


She stared at me. "You had no idea, did you."


She took a huge breath and let it out. "Thank God she wasn't totally off base. You are in love with her, aren't you?"

Surprised at her bluntness, I couldn't answer with anything other than truth. "Yeah."

"I figured you'd be too obtuse to realize the feeling was mutual. Listen, Sam, this kind of thing is going to happen a lot. All the time, in fact. So the way to handle it is to nod and agree with everything she says. Okay?"

I couldn't imagine a situation even remotely similar to this one in my future. "I'm sure that I can handle Jan-"

"Sam! I'm telling you. Just remember, always nod and agree like whatever it is was exactly what you were thinking. Promise you won't forget."

I rolled my eyes and promised.

Turns out she was right.

The End

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