DISCLAIMER: The story, and characters and anything and everything else concerning SG: SG1 belong to MGM, Gekko, Secret Productions etc, they are so not mine and no money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended. Lyrics at the end are from "Unison" by Bjork.
SERIES: This is the fifth story in the Grace series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author
"It's nice to know that people still stay together no matter what isn't it?"
I had no answer to that in my dream and no answer now. My eyes snapped open as I realised that I had fallen asleep. I had no business sleeping. I had to watch over Janet.
It seemed only fair. How many nights had our positions been reversed and she had watched over me, either here in the infirmary or at home in our bedroom. Our bedroom. It had taken me years to call it that. In my head it had always been her bedroom, Janet's room, Janet's home. I just stayed over sometimes.
From the day I told her that it was over I didn't go back to the house until after we got her back from Anubis. Six months, give or take. I got two surprises when I did go back there to collect some personal things that Janet might need. The first was that our bedroom was exactly as I had last seen it. All my stuff was still in the bathroom, my underwear in the drawer, my clothes in the closet, my moisturiser and make-up still on the dressing table. She had not put anything away, packed up my gear and stowed in the basement or put it out for goodwill to collect as any sensible person would have done given how I had acted towards her. Everything was ready for me to just walk back into.
If that is what I wanted to do. And that's what I had to decide.
The second surprise you had for me were the drawings. The sketchpad was on the bedside table. It was a new one, the first sketch dated from a few days after I left. I wanted to reconnect with my Janet so badly that I did something I would never normally have done without her permission. I picked it up and started to leaf through it. They were all drawings of me, done from memory, mostly nudes. They were done with such love that I could not help crying. That was how Cassie found me.
"Sam, it's okay. Let it go," she said, climbing onto the bed behind me and wrapping her arms around me. "Mom's drawings? I saw them when I came home for the memorial. They're great aren't they? How did she get you to sit still long enough to pose for her?"
"She didn't. I never you know me, Cass. I don't even like getting my photo taken." One more regret. One more thing I should have done for her. "She must have drawn them from memory."
"They're beautiful. You're beautiful. Don't let it go, Sam, please. Don't let her go."
"It might not be up to me," I said. "I hurt your mom so badly. I was selfish, self-centred, I "
"Everyone's entitled to question themselves, their lives, once in a while," Cassie said. "Depends what you do afterwards. You put your life on the line to save mom and those other people. She knows that. Before that last mission Uncle Daniel had told her how badly you were hurting, how much you regretted what had happened. She knew that you loved her. She never doubted that for a second."
"I never got the chance to tell her myself."
"Well you have the chance now. Just don't blow it, okay. I know how much you hate this sort of conversation, even with mom, but I'm going to be selfish now. I want my family back in one piece. Do it for me, Sam, please."
"When did you get so grown up?" I laughed softly, leaning against the young woman that she regarded almost as her own daughter. If things had been different. Another mark of my selfishness. I put my career ahead of Cassie.
"You're doing it again," she said sharply. "Sam sometimes you think too much, you know. You analyze yourself so deeply that sometimes you just well, you just need to stop and feel things for a while, you know. You're human like the rest of us. You screw up like the rest of us. But you're luckier than most of us. You got a second chance."
The irony of getting lectured on 'humanity' by someone who had spent their formative years on another planet did not escape me. Janet did a fine job on bringing up Cassie. I like to think I had a hand in it as well. I smiled, hugged her close. It looked like I got a few things right after all, along the way.
"I owe you a huge apology you know, Cassie. After when we thought Janet was gone, O'Neill and I were talking. He asked how you were doing and I just said something like 'Cassie's a tough kid, she's dealing.' Later I realised how much like my father I sounded. It was something he probably said about me after my mom died. We didn't really talk about what happened for over twenty years you know. It just festered between us. Cassie, if I ever gave you the impression that I didn't care about what you were going through I am so sorry."
"You might not have been the best at showing it but I knew that you and the guys were with me every step of the way. I never really believed that she was dead in the first place, you know. I mean mom is like a force of nature," Cassie smiled, tears trickling down her cheeks. "She is going to be okay, isn't she?"
"We hope so," I said. "But you can count on one thing, Cassie. I'm going to be with her every step of the way."
It is ten days since Janet died. Four days since we retrieved her and the rest of our people from Anubis. She was briefly conscious when I found her, she even said my name. I carried her out. I still don't know how we made it back to the ship in one piece. I remember being pressed against the wall at one point, Janet still cradled in my arms as Teal'c shielded us with his body from enemy fire. I know he was wearing the modified armour in his jacket but it was still an incredibly brave thing to do. Still, that's Teal'c for you.
The Tokra were already working on the injured when we ringed up. The second team had retreated safely through the Gate back to the SGC. I just found a corner and sat down, Janet's body cradled across my lap. Dad brought a Tokra that Jolinar knew as Shenara over to us. She was one of their best healers. Reluctantly, I laid Janet on a blanket on the floor so that Shenara could examine her. Together we went over Janet's injuries, stabilising and repairing what we could.
Janet had swelling to her brain, her left shoulder was dislocated, her wrist broken. She had broken ribs and internal bleeding into her chest cavity and her abdomen. Her left pelvis and femur were shattered. Bone fragments from that injury had pierced several internal organs and had damaged her spine. The wound itself was massively infected. She had lost a lot of blood. Shenara used the healing device on her for as long as she could manage and then despite my own exhaustion I took a turn, letting my feelings for Janet drive the flow of energy into the device, boosting the effectiveness of what I was doing. We reduced the swelling in her brain, healed her ribs and her wrist and repaired a lot of the soft tissue damage. I wanted to do more but Shenara stopped me.
"You are putting yourself in danger, Major Carter. Your friend is severely injured," Shenara said. "We can only do so much to help her with the healing device."
I had an idea where the conversation was going to go next. I had seen that one of the Tokra was in an even worse condition than Janet. "No."
"Not even as a temporary measure as we did with Colonel O'Neill?"
And that turned out so well. "No," I repeated, cradling Janet to me.
Shenara nodded, accepting my decision. She did enough to keep Janet alive until we got back to the rendezvous and gated back to the SGC. There, Janet was taken straight into surgery. I had managed to brief the General before we got back and he had the best orthopaedic surgeons standing by to work on her.
Janet was in surgery for a long time whilst they rebuilt her hip and pinned her femur. They removed as many bone fragments as they could find from her spine but she will need further surgeries, not to mention skin grafts. There is a strong possibility that she will be paraplegic. At the moment there's still too much swelling and tissue damage to make a final determination.
I can't think about what that might mean for her, for us yet. I just can't.
Teal'c has stayed close. He's been in several times, bringing me coffee or a plate of food. No one has dared to suggest that I leave her side. He stands at the foot of the bed and stares at Janet as if he is willing her to open her eyes, to talk to us. I think most of the SGC past and present have sent get well messages and a table in the corridor outside is filled with flowers, stuffies and cards for her to look over when she wakes up.
When she wakes up. Any other outcome is unacceptable.
I let my eyes close again, my head resting on my forearm, my fingers touching her arm, letting her know that I am still here, in body anyway.
In my dream I am in a field of wildflowers, the air heavy with summer. Bees flit in and out of the flowers. I can hear voices, someone giggling. I keep walking and then I see them.
Janet is sitting in the grass, a crown of wildflowers in her hair. Grace is kneeling in front of her holding a dandelion seed head so that Janet can blow the seeds away.
They turn to look at me as I walk towards them and Grace smiled broadly. "See, Janet I told you she would come."
"Yes, you did," Janet said softly reaching up to brush a lock of hair back from the girl's brow. Her feet are bare, her arms and legs tanned from the sun, contrasting pleasantly with the pale cream strappy dress that she wears. "Hello, Samantha, my love. We've been waiting for you to join us."
"I've been watching over you, watching you sleep," I said, sitting down near her. "You're safe now, back at the SGC. We rescued you from Anubis. You're going to be fine. When you wake up."
"I know," she said in a matter of fact voice. "I remember. I was dead and then he put me in the sarcophagus. He interrogated me for information. Then you came. Grace said that you would come."
And then we were there, back in the middle of the battle, everything moving in slow motion around us. We watched as O'Neill went down, the staff blast to the chest knocking him eight feet from his previous position. I saw myself race towards him, screaming for a medic, tearing the sleeve from my jacket to press against the wound that was leaking blood at an alarming rate from his chest.
I didn't want to see what happened next. I saw it over and over again in my mind anyway. I buried my face in my hands, hot tears scalding my skin as I heard the whump of the staff blast hit her, the only noise she made, half scream, half surprised 'Oh!', heard my screams of denial. I wanted nothing more than to go to her, to hold her but I couldn't. If I moved my hands from the wound in O'Neills chest then he would bleed out and die. And I would lose them both. I was selfish. I couldn't face losing both of them. So I chose. And she died alone.
And then her arms were around me and I buried my head in her shoulder and cried out my sorrow and my shame. "It's okay, Sam," she said softly. "It only hurt for a moment and then I was gone."
"But before that I hurt you so badly," I said. "I couldn't save you. I couldn't be with you. I was so stupid, so selfish."
"Yes, you were," Janet said. "But you were lucky, we were lucky, you have a chance to put that right now." A hand closed around my arm and I felt myself pulled away. A familiar voice, familiar words.
"Samantha, you must sleep."
I opened my eyes to see Teal'c bending over me. "I was " I pointed out, somewhat groggily. "You called me Samantha." Teal'c never called me Samantha. Except in my dream. Was I still dreaming?
"It seemed appropriate to address you by your personal name at this time. I sensed you would not disapprove. I meant that you should sleep properly. In a bed. You will make yourself ill if you do not sleep. And Janet Fraiser would never forgive us for letting you neglect yourself." He indicated the second empty bed in the room. "I will alert you if her condition changes."
He did this once before, I remembered. Only that time Janet was the recipient of his care.
It was after I got another alien freeloader in my head. This time an AI. And I was dead again for a while. Somehow Janet put me back together again and I was in the infirmary trying to figure out if everything went back together the right way and what the hell to do if it hadn't.
Janet was with me every step of the way. When my digestion went into reverse she was the one who cleaned me up. When I had a nightmare she was the one I clung to until I remembered who and where I was.
Her back was aching from the unnatural posture but Sam showed no signs of letting go. Her sobs had lessened to breathy whimperings. She sounded terrified, lost. Janet was fairly certain that she still had not completely woken up.
"Dr Fraiser, can I be of any assistance?" Teal'c asked from the doorway.
"Thanks," Janet said, "if you could help me settle her?" Teal'c was surprisingly gentle for such a large and phenomenally strong man. He helped her disengage Sam's tight grasp and lay her down again. Sam opened her eyes to stare at him for a moment. He cupped her cheek in his hand and gently wiped the tears from her skin.
"Do not fear, Major Carter. You are safe and in the care of friends." She gazed up at him silently, but the lost expression in her eyes said everything. Teal'c was someone she normally trusted implicitly. They often shared a tent offworld on missions. He had woken her from nightmares many times over the years, he had shared his bodywarmth with her when she was cold. They had watched each other's backs in battle and he looked to her to explain the vagaries of this world to him, knowing that unlike O'Neill, she would not lead him astray.
"Her fever is rising again," he observed.
"It keeps spiking," Janet said, "but her system is still so out of synch that I daren't use any of the drugs I would normally use, so we have to resort to more old fashioned methods." She indicated the bowl of melting ice and washcloth by the bed.
"I will sit with her," Teal'c said. He dipped the washcloth into the cold water and squeezed out the residue before wiping it gently across Sam's forehead and cheeks.
"Thank you, Teal'c," Janet said softly. Sam's readings were normalising again but she still had not spoken. Her eyes did track Janet as she crossed the cubicle, checking Sam's hydration IV and catheter. Janet badly needed to sleep but did not want to stray too far from Sam's side.
As if divining her thoughts, Teal'c got up and opened one side of the curtains to the empty bed beyond. He quickly rearranged the curtains at the far side, doubling the space within the curtained off areas. "Now you may rest and your presence will continue to reassure Major Carter."
"That's very thoughtful of you, thank you, Teal'c," Janet said softly. The big man bowed his head, his customary gesture of respect or acknowledgement.
She bent over Sam, checking the young woman's condition a final time and laid a chaste kiss on her brow, feeling the heat of her skin sting her lips. "I'll be on the next bed, Sam. I need to get a few hours sleep. Teal'c will be right here with you. You won't be alone."
"Not alone," Sam whispered, her eyes filled with unshed tears just beginning to spill onto her cheeks.
"Not alone," I whispered. I allowed the big man to help me to my feet and guide me to the bed. I settled myself so that I could still see her, Teal'c sitting in my vacated seat, Janet's small hand engulfed in his larger one. I remembered how he had come to me when I was trying to write Janet's eulogy and feeling an even bigger failure than ever because somewhere between my head and the screen the words I wanted to say came out trite and forced and no where near to doing her justice.
Then Teal'c came to me, the folded sheet of paper held out to me as if it was a precious offering. Given his stoic nature I should have felt uncomfortable crying in front of him. But strangely enough I wasn't. He had seen me in tears before, he knew how bad I must be feeling to give in to them like this. To be honest I think he envied me. Jaffa did not cry.
I tried to explain to him the problems I was having writing something for Janet and he nodded. There was no recrimination in his tone.
"I have pondered as to what I would say should I be given the chance." He handed me the sheet of paper and I unfolded it, staring at the beautiful, simple words on the page that said more about my Janet and what made her who she was than anything I could ever say. "I think it would be better coming from you."
I hugged him close, knowing how much he too mourned her loss. Janet had long ago confided in me that she thought that Teal'c might have a bit of a crush on her. The knowledge did not worry me or make me feel jealous. It just proved to me how lucky I was to have this woman in my life, my heart when someone of the caliber of Teal'c could see and cherish her worth.
And now I had her back. We had her back.
Fatigue pulled me deep into the mattress. I couldn't have moved even if my life depended on it. Teal'c was watching over her. Janet was safe. I could rest.
I knew that if I was ever unable to protect her then Teal'c would do everything in his power to see that Janet was safe. He would never let her down.
An unknown number of hours later I opened my eyes. Teal'c was talking softly to someone, two nurses were working around Janet's bed, adjusting IVs and taking readings.
"Teal'c is she worse?" I asked, my voice scratchy.
He turned his head to me and gifted me with one of his 'Buddha' smiles. "On the contrary, Major Carter, Janet Fraiser is waking up."
I pushed myself off the bed and stood next to him, leaning across him to see for myself.
Soft brown eyes blinked up at me and my lover almost managed a smile before she drifted under again.
"Her first words were to ask where you were," Teal'c said. "I reassured her that you were safe and well and that I had instructed you to get some sleep. She approved."
It was the hardest thing I have ever done wheeling her to her room in the rehabilitation unit and leaving her.
Four months had passed since her return, most of them she had spent in various hospitals undergoing further treatment and surgeries. They still hadn't given up hope that she would get at least some mobility back but for now and the immediate future she was forced to use a wheelchair. She had finally been allowed home to recuperate three weeks ago. The guys all the guys, not just SG1 - Cassie and I had worked hard on the house making it as wheelchair friendly as we could to give her as much independence as possible.
O'Neill and Daniel wanted to throw a big party to mark Janet's release from hospital but I persuaded them to hold off that idea for a couple of weeks until she was a little stronger, a little more settled into her new state of being.
I watched as she wheeled herself up the ramp and into the house. Janet paused at the threshold and looked back at me. I smiled, encouraging her to go inside. Cassie was waiting to give her the grand tour. We wanted to make Janet as self-sufficient as possible whilst still maintaining as many of the original features and fittings. It was Janet's home after all. And my home. If she still wanted me. A conversation we had not yet ventured.
She cried. I thought at first that she hated it, that it was a reminder of everything she had lost but when she had recovered herself a little she explained it to me.
"You care so much about me, all of you. Look at this place it must have taken you ages. And the cost!"
"No one worried about the time or the cost, Janet," I said. "It was for you. That was all that mattered. All that anyone thought of." It felt wrong to stand over her, somehow patronizing to kneel beside her. I didn't know what to do with myself, how to be around her any more. She took hold of my hand, forced me to look at her.
"I want you, Sam."
"Of course I'll move back in, if that's what you want, I " I paused, seeing her shake her head.
"I want . You Sam." Her eyes burned into mine.
"Oh." I said. "Are you sure?"
Her look said everything. I lifted her into my arms and carried her upstairs. As I laid her on the bed she pulled me down half on top of her. "Touch me," she whispered. "Make me feel."
"I don't know what to do," I confessed. "I'm afraid I'll hurt you."
"Then do what I tell you, Sam." She grinned up at me. "Think of me like one of those alien artifacts you're so fond of. Lavish the same kind of attention on me. Learn me all over again."
I undressed her, softly kissing her bare too pale flesh as it was revealed inch by inch. She had the fingers of one hand wound in my hair, her other hand resting lightly on her back her voice soft, telling me how much she loved me, how much she needed what I was doing to her. I pulled off her trousers, revealed her slim legs. She had lost some muscle tone already but as soon as she was able had started physiotherapy. I smoothed my fingers gently up the skin of her inner thigh.
"Can you feel that?" I asked softly.
"Mmmm," she whispered. "So long since Sam, please!" My lips followed my fingers as I kissed my way from the inside of her knee up to the soft hairs that masked her centre. I paused. I couldn't hold her the way I used to, the long scar where she had had surgery on her hip was still reddened, slightly raised. I was afraid to hurt her.
I must have spoken aloud without realizing it. "You could never hurt me, Sam. Please."
Carefully I parted her thighs, the ridge of scar tissue slightly warmer than the surrounding skin gentled in the palm of my hand. I dipped my head, nosing at her, my tongue sneaking out between her folds. She gasped and I paused.
"Again," she whispered. "More!"
I gave her all I had to give, took all that she gave me in return, reveling in the taste of her wondering how I had gone without it for so long. And then I cradled her in my arms and she wept a little. And then her hands were busy on my body, undressing me, tonguing my breasts, her fingers pressing and thrusting at my centre until I screamed her name.
We fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms, her head pillowed on my breast as we had done a thousand times before. And in the morning we made love again and then I carried her into the shower. Thankfully even with the modifications there was enough room for both of us.
And we began a new day, a new life. For three weeks at least. And now we were to be parted again.
"See you in two weeks," Janet smiled. "If all goes well I'll meet you at the door walking under my own steam."
"Don't push yourself too hard, love," I said. "You're still healing, remember."
"Who's the medical doctor again?" she asked, pulling me down into a kiss.
Two weeks without her touch, her kisses, her presence. It was going to kill me. But I had some rehabilitation of my own to do as well. Tomorrow I was leading out my first mission as official team leader of SG1. General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill had already congratulated me unofficially on the promotion to Colonel that would follow within a few weeks.
The only constant was change, I told myself. Hopefully for the better.
"Earth to Sam?" my lover asked softly.
"Sorry, thinking," I apologised. "Of how much I'm going to miss you the next two weeks."
"We've been apart a lot longer than that before and you survived," she said softly and then hung her head. "Oh god, I'm sorry Sam. I did not mean that the way it sounded."
"It's something you should have said long ago," I said, hunkering down beside her, tracing the soft line of her cheek and jaw with my fingers. "Even if I work at it the rest of my life I'm never going to be able to make up for what I did to you."
"I've already forgiven you a hundred times, a thousand times in my heart," Janet said softly. "We both walked away that day. Not just you. I should have talked to you helped you to sort out what you were feeling. Not just given up. Sam, I really think that in the future we're both going to be the stronger because of what happened. We survived it, we can survive anything."
I could feel the shakes beginning again. "The future If you had died without me being able to tell you "
"But I didn't die," she said softly. "Not permanently anyway." She gave a soft giggle. "As well as everything else we achieved at the SGC we managed to redefine death as well." Her hand was in my hair, her long slender fingers threading through it. The touch was comforting. "Sam, you have to go now."
"I know," I said, my voice muffled in her lap. I raised my head to her again memorising every line of her face. "Two weeks."
"Two weeks. Phone me when you're back, okay?"
"Count on it." I kissed her, tasting her, my eyes closed my mind concentrated on remembering every aspect of this moment. "I'll phone you at nine every night I'm able," I said.
I gave her one last long kiss, feeling her lips smile against mine and then I did the second hardest thing I've ever done. I left her alone. Again.
Unison Bjork (From Vespertine)
One hand loves the other so much on me
Born stubborn me
Will always be
Before you count
1 2 3
I have grown my own private branch
Off this tree
You gardener you
I can obey all of your rules
And still be me
I never thought I would compromise
One hand loves the other so much on me
Let's unite tonight
We shouldn't fight
Embrace you tight
Let's unite tonight
Sequel The Only Constant is Change
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