DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters; that honour belongs to MGM, Showtime, Gekko, etc. I am merely borrowing them to entertain myself and I promise to play nicely with them. I do this for love, not money, so the aforementioned owners should feel free to steal rather than sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: as always, feedback is more than welcome…and constructive criticism would help. I have to thank rutherford for her "Side Effects" story…not only is it a great story, but I borrowed a couple of ideas from it.
SEASON/SPOILERS: minor spoilers for "Secrets"—this is set right after "Secrets" (season two).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Haunted Thoughts
By ocean gazer


Janet Fraiser sent a concerned glance down to the woman nestled in her arms. Samantha Carter was, in essence, curled into a tight ball—well, as much of one as she could be in lying on the couch with Janet's legs outlining her form. The blonde head was pillowed on Janet's chest and Sam had one hand clenched tightly to the fabric of Janet's sweatshirt. Sam was holding on for dear life; Janet could see the white lines of her knuckles.

Janet kept an arm wrapped snugly around Sam's body, but brought one hand up to stroke a path through the woman's silken hair. Sam sighed, without seeming to realize it, and pressed her body closer into Janet's embrace.

Janet let her eyes drift to the fireplace, where flames crackled merrily. She kept her hand tangled loosely in Sam's hair, wishing she didn't feel quite so helpless. She felt about the same way she had in the aftermath of Jolinar's death—watching Sam suffer and unable to do a damn thing about it. As with that situation, Janet knew the basics of what was happening in her lover's life, but the thoughts and emotions locked in Sam's head were beyond Janet's reach.

Janet watched as one of the logs crumbled into coals, watched as the pile of wood shifted, letting her thoughts dance along with the flames.

Sam had come home from the ceremony in DC in an unusually quiet mood. After an evening of Janet's prompting, Sam had finally confided that her father had been diagnosed with cancer. She had hinted at an argument, had hinted that her father was keeping her at arms length. And Janet could easily read the hurt in Sam's eyes every time she called her dad, only to have him keep the conversation business-like and curt.

Janet wrenched her gaze back to Sam and a sudden pang of hurt flared inside her. She felt like Sam was halfway across the galaxy, instead of nestled close to her.

Janet sighed deeply, trying to blow the unwanted emotion out through her mouth. Their relationship was so new—they'd been friends for a couple of years, but lovers for barely a month—and Janet realized with a sudden sinking in her stomach that she was terrified Sam was drifting away from her.

They didn't have a solid anchor to begin with: there was the strain of a relationship that had to be kept completely hidden, and the added complication of Janet being Sam's doctor.

And Janet was scared. She had fallen so completely for Sam, jumped in feet first where she would usually have inched along. The first time they kissed—both slightly drunk after a mission gone horribly wrong—Janet felt Sam pull back and had surprised herself by pursuing the contact.

Janet had wanted Sam for months, had wanted her more than she'd wanted anything in a long time, and she had gotten her. And now—well, Sam might be there with Janet, but the wall of silence made the presence nearly equal absence.

Janet offered another profound sigh, feeling the weight of depression settle firmly on her shoulders. She knew Sam was hurting and she wanted to help. But for all she could tell, Sam didn't want to confide in even her.

Janet shook her head, blinking back sudden tears, telling herself to stop acting like a selfish child. It didn't work. She tried reminding herself that Sam was an intensely private person even when things were going well. That didn't seem to lift her spirits either.

Janet felt Sam's body shaking and she brought herself out of her own thoughts enough to realize Sam was crying. The sobs sounded soft and muffled, as if the woman was trying hard not to be overheard.

"Oh, Hon," Janet breathed, moving her hand from Sam's hair to rub gently at her back, "just let yourself cry. You don't have to be strong all the time."

The words seemed to open the proverbial floodgates. Sam shifted in Janet's arms, sliding up so that her head was buried in Janet's shoulder, and her arms wrapped around Janet's waist so tightly that the doctor momentarily wondered if she'd wind up with bruises there. Sam's whole body shook with harsh sobs, painful to hear.

Janet held Sam close, stroking her back and her hair, whispering soft sounds of comfort. Janet felt a perversely odd sense of relief: not that she wanted Sam to be wracked with sorrow, but she felt relieved that Sam seemed to be opening up and letting her in, albeit slowly.

She had known Sam a long time, and could barely remember seeing the woman cry. Even in her profound depression after Jolinar's death, Sam had not broken down like this.

After what seemed like days, Sam's sobs tapered down. Janet was only vaguely aware that her shoulder was damp with the blonde's tears. She leaned forward and pressed soft kisses against Sam's hair, then shifted herself into more of a sitting position, pulling Sam with her.

Janet felt a sense of surprise at how pliant Sam was, not resisting Janet's resettling. Sam still had a vise grip around Janet's waist, and staccato hiccups interrupted her breathing. Janet patted her back, hoping to ease the small spasms.

"I'm sorry," came a tiny, hoarse whisper from Sam.

Janet leaned forward again and kissed the top of Sam's head, suddenly at a loss for words as conflicting emotions surged through her. There was still the fear of losing Sam, the relief that Sam had let down her guard, the anxiety about the depth of Sam's despair, and the somewhat out-of-place attraction to the vulnerable side of the normally stoic woman.

Janet spoke carefully over the top of the blonde head. "You don't need to be sorry. I'm glad you're letting down your guard with me—your silence can be a little scary. I know it's been tough dealing with the news of your dad's illness; I just wish I could help somehow."

She could actually feel Sam's body stiffen as she spoke, and Sam's low voice echoed a surprising note of anger. "Tough…that's a bit of an understatement."

Janet pulled away from Sam, leaning back, and she pried Sam's arms free from her waist. Janet's fear won over her other emotions and turned into a surge of anger at Sam's apparent anger.

Sam sat up, shock-still as if she'd been slapped, and the look of confusion crossing her tear stained face stood out clearly for Janet to read. Sam's question was a simple one. "What?"

Janet's words sounded short and crisp. "I don't think it's fair of you to be mad at me. I've been trying to help, but you aren't making it easy for me to do anything."

She watched Sam carefully, gauging the reaction, noticing that her words served only to deepen Sam's confusion. And then the woman's face crinkled into comprehension. "Oh God, Janet, I'm not mad at you. God no! I'm so sorry…I didn't mean…"

Sam broke off and her tears welled up again. Janet exhaled quickly, suddenly feeling like she'd been kicked in the ribs. Sam slid across to the other end of the couch and buried her head against the couch arm.

"You should just get out of this relationship now…get away from me," Sam sobbed hysterically. "I'm messing everything up, I'm hurting everyone around me…and you are the last person in the world I want to hurt, Janet."

Janet sat perfectly still, in shock at the outburst, afraid that any move would be the wrong one. Her anger had dissolved, her fear had fled, and now her concern for Sam became paramount.

Janet scooted over to sit pressed against Sam. Her voice soft and soothing, Janet said, "I won't pretend this has been easy. It's hard for me to feel shut out. But I understand that you'd be angry about your father's illness."

A sharp laugh, completely devoid of humor, greeted her words. Sam sat up straight and faced Janet. "That's just it," she said bitterly. "I should be angry at the illness. But I'm not. I'm angry at my dad."

Sam broke the glance and stared down at her lap, knotting her fingers together tightly. "That sounds so horrible…I mean, he's dying and I'm mad at him. Maybe I really am a cold-hearted bitch like some people say."

Janet felt her heart breaking at those last few words. She knew better than anyone that Sam was anything but cold-hearted.

Janet reached out to cup Sam's cheek, to turn the woman to face her. Sam resisted looking at her, but Janet was persistent. Sam's red-rimmed blue eyes were unmasked and Janet could read the mix of hope, anger, and sorrow reflected in them.

Janet felt tears welling up in her own eyes as she said, "Hon, being angry at your dad does not make you a bad person."

Another sob escaped Sam's throat and her words came rushed, as if she could no longer hold her feelings in after Janet's simple reassurance. "I feel like he's running off again. My whole life he's been gone when I needed him. I ended up feeling like a parent to him—telling him over and over 'yes, it's ok', 'yes, I understand', 'yes, I know your job is all important'. And now I need a parent, someone to tell me it will be ok, and I don't have one."

She buried her head against Janet's shoulder. "And I know it's selfish of me. That's what makes it worse."

Janet's tears flowed freely down her face, hearing the anguish in her lover's voice. "Oh Sam," she whispered, rubbing the other woman's back again.

Sam clutched tight to Janet. "I forgave him for all the broken promises and I moved on. I went on to follow my own path. And I thought I was over all that old pain. But when he showed up for the medals ceremony, before he even told me he was sick, he was so insistent that I follow his leading, that I pursue his dream for me.

"He was so oblivious to what I wanted and wasn't listening to what I said, that I ended up back in that same old place, with all that hurt and resentment washing over me."

Janet could feel Sam tense in her arms as the blonde continued in a bare whisper. "I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid…"

The realizations clicked together in Janet's mind and with a sense of relief so sharp it made her gasp, Janet knew that Sam had been distant not because she didn't want to share with Janet, but because she was scared of the potential response to her sharing.

Janet braced her hands on Sam's shoulders and pushed the woman gently back until she could stare into the blue eyes. "The way your father has been acting, you have every right to be angry with him."

Sam's expression turned sheepish and she glanced down apologetically. Janet read the unspoken thought, knowing Sam's ability to be unusually tolerant of the bad behavior of senior officers.

"I'm serious, Sam. Your childhood demons aside, there's the way he told about his illness, the way he's using your guilt to push you to follow his dreams, the way he'll barely talk to you. Hell, I'm angry and I haven't even talked to the man!"

Sam still wouldn't meet Janet's eyes, but she chuckled quietly. "You sound like a grizzly bear protecting her cub."

Janet smiled at that, feeling glad for the small respite from intense emotion. She leaned over to press a light kiss against Sam's temple. "Well, someone's got to do it."

Sam raised her head and Janet saw the ghost of a smile flit across the tear marked face. The next words flew out of Janet's mouth faster than thought—before she had time to consider the wisdom of them. "Did you really think I wouldn't understand? Is that why you wouldn't talk to me?"

Janet cursed herself quietly as a haunted look stole over Sam's face. The blonde spoke reluctantly. "It was partly that--I didn't know whether you would think I was horrible for being angry. But it was mostly that I'm scared of losing you. You're the best thing to happen to me in a long time, and I'm scared of screwing it all up…"

Janet felt her own surprise at the unintended confession radiating outward, almost tangible. Apparently Sam felt the emotion; she wrapped her arms around Janet and rested her head on Janet's shoulder.

"God, Janet, I feel like an idiot. I should know by now that I can trust in you."

Janet rested her head against Sam's and confessed quietly, "Well, I was scared of losing you, so I feel a little stupid myself." She managed a terse chuckle. "I think we need to work a little harder on communication."

She could feel Sam nodding her head in response. Janet snuggled closer against her lover.

Sam's voice grew pensive. "I am trying not to be angry at my father. I really do want to be there for him…not that he seems to want that."

Janet heard the threat of renewed tears in her voice, and reached up to gently caress Sam's cheek. "You're doing the best you can to be there for him, Sam. He has to meet you part way. I know you don't want to be angry, but you certainly have the right to be."

Janet paused, wanting desperately to reassure her lover. "The fact that you are trying to be there for him, despite your own feelings, shows a lot more maturity and compassion than you know."

She felt the tension drain out of Sam at the words and she felt a rush of gratitude that she'd managed to say the right thing.

Sam pressed a light kiss to the underside of Janet's jaw. "Thanks, Janet," she offered softly. "I really do love you and I'm sorry that I've hurt you."

Janet placed a gentle kiss on Sam's lips. "I love you too."

Silence washed over them, punctuated only by the crackling of the wood and the hiss of the flames. Janet realized that just knowing Sam was as scared as she was made her feel a lot more secure.

After a long while, Janet kissed Sam again and spoke quietly. "You know, Sam, even if your father doesn't seem proud of the strong, caring, intelligent woman you are, I want you to know that I am proud of you…and I'm glad to be a part of your life."

Another bout of tears greeted her sentence, but the look on Sam's face was anything but sad. And Janet smiled to herself, knowing that these tears were ones she could fix.

The End

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