DISCLAIMER: don't own any of 'em; just borrowing to feed my poor starving imagination. They belong to a whole gob of other wonderful and tolerant folks. I do this for love, not money; I welcome any of the characters' owners to steal rather than sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: this story is dedicated to Phil, for giving me the idea in the first place <and for being a wonderful cheerleader>.
WARNING: my knowledge of X-Men is based solely on the movie, and I took a lot of poetic license with that. If you are a serious devotee, this story will likely annoy you. An additional warning: there is some inter-SG1 violence that could prove unsettling. I cheerfully admit to having done no research on any of these subjects whatsoever.
SEASON/SPOILERS: let's say season three, with specific spoilers for Singularity.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By ocean gazer
Sam Carter fluttered back to consciousness with the vague thought that she really didn't want to wake up. As grim and violent as her dreams had been, she didn't think she wanted to face whatever reality had prompted them. Especially since she had no idea where she was, or more importantly, how she had gotten there.
She remained still for a moment, eyes closed, mind spinning to try and piece together any clues as to her whereabouts. She was lying on something cold and hard, and the knuckles of her hands itched like crazy. She considered that for a moment, trying to decide if she'd been injured. Then she simply lay still and listened. She couldn't believe how quiet it was then her senses adapted to the stillness and she could hear soft breathing coming from somewhere to her left.
She tensed, trying to determine whether it came from friend or foe. A moment later, she heard one of the breaths change to a low, pained moan. Sam mentally frowned, knowing the tone was familiar, but unable to make a connection to anyone she knew. The unknown person moaned again, louder this time, and Sam's eyes popped open in sudden insight and she was in an upright position without being aware how she'd done it so quickly.
She crawled over to Janet's side and pressed her hand soothingly against the unconscious woman's cheek. Janet's face was twisted in pain, though Sam could see no injury. Sam kept one hand pressed to her friend's cheek, and smoothed Janet's hair with the other. "It's ok, Janet," she whispered, having no idea whether that was true or not.
The unconscious woman seemed to register Sam's presence, her face relaxing. Sam sat down, her hands soothing Janet. She looked idly at her itching knucklesthey seemed red and swollen, but otherwise unharmed.
Sam took the opportunity to glance around the room. The whole damn thing was grey and seemingly seamless. She couldn't tell what the material was, but then again, she couldn't see anything that remotely resembled a door, so she couldn't figure out how they had gotten into the room. There were two beds that looked like hospital beds, but no equipment anywhere in sight.
"Ok, this is a little bizarre," she muttered out loud, hoping that an imitation of Colonel O'Neill would somehow cause him to appear with Teal'c and Daniel and get her and Janet out of well, wherever they were. Her hope was in vain, not surprisingly.
"What's bizarre?" came the unexpected whisper from Janet, who had clasped hold of Sam's hands, her eyes still screwed tightly shut as if not having to look at something would cause it to go away.
Sam smiled down at Janet. In lieu of answering the question, she said, "I'm glad you're awake. You seemed to be having some kind of bad dreams."
Janet opened her eyes at that and Sam wondered at the grim look in them. She shook one hand free from Janet's prying fingers, and stroked the other woman's hair again, hoping to soothe her. "You have no idea," Janet offered in a horror stricken whisper, and Sam felt her heart skip a beat.
"What's wrong?" Sam asked gently, not sure how to best reassure her friend. "Are you hurt?"
Janet's response came in the form of hysterical laughter, which soon turned into uncontrollable sobbing. She sat up and grabbed blindly at Sam, holding the blond woman in a vise grip. Sam managed to get her arms free and pull Janet into a fiercely protective embrace. Sam felt as if the world was collapsing as she held the doctor. She and Janet were cut of the same cloth, both amazingly strong, both able to deal with practically any crisis. Seeing Janet this emotional and out of control was proving almost too much for Sam to take, especially since there was nothing she could do to mend things.
After a while, Janet hiccupped and took a deep breath. She pulled away from Sam to look directly at her for the first time. Sam felt a deep sense of tenderness toward her friend as she put one hand on Janet's tear stained face. She wondered what on earth was going on with Janet.
As if the doctor had read her mind, she said in a hoarse voice, "I wish I knew what was going on. It's like I have all these voices in my head, and none of them are mine."
Sam whistleda low, sympathetic sound. Janet took another breath and then snuggled back against Sam's body, wrapping her arms around the blonde's waist. Sam could feel Janet's head move slightly, and guessed the brunette was finally looking around the room.
All of a sudden, Janet jerked out of Sam's arms and stood up, disbelief radiating out from every pore. Sam scrambled to her feet and moved toward Janet, but the doctor held out a restraining arm. She swept a critical gaze up and down Sam's body, then surveyed her own self, then let her eyes dart around the room.
"What is it?" Sam pleaded. "Janet, you're scaring me." This last sentence cost Sam dearly to admit, but she hoped it would somehow bring a semblance of sanity back to Janet.
"No, this can't be." Janet yelled in response, her voice echoing crazily off the rounded walls.
Sam took a tentative step forward and then suddenly there was a door in the unbroken wall, and then there were men walking into the room. Only two of them, but Sam felt a surge of fear, sensing a power in each of them that went beyond mere physical prowess. And then Janet shrieked in terror and cowered against the wall. Sam looked at her in alarm. There was definitely something very wrong with Janetthe action was completely out of character.
One of the men gave a faint grin of satisfaction as he took stock of Janet. He the looked at Sam and motioned to his companion. The other man walked forward and Sam braced herself in a defensive stance. She was more surprised than anyone when his fist shot out in a blur of speed and sent her sprawling into the far wall.
She scrambled to her feet, and for some reason she couldn't fathom, decided to launch herself full force at her attacker. She knocked him flat, but then he scrambled to his feet and got in another blow that arced her high into the air, sending her crashing into one of the beds. She groaned as she felt a bone in her left arm move in directions nature never intended, but had no time to even cope with the pain, since the man was coming at her again. The sneer on his face and the grin on the other man's, combined with the sight of Janet sinking slowly to the floor with her face once again twisted in pain, kindled a blaze of rage in Sam's chest.
And in that moment, Sam felt her knuckles split open and stared in utter amazement as a set of metallic claws sprang out from each of her hands. The claws were long, with wickedly sharp edges, and Sam couldn't believe they were real. And then a new source of pain struck her; she realized that she had impaled her left wrist on the claws of her right hand. The blood convinced her that this was real, and not just some elaborate illusion.
The man paused in his advance toward her, and the other man said simply, "It worked. Come."
Both men exited the room, and the door disappeared as if it had never existed. Sam blinked hard, and felt her momentary rage vanish as the pain took over. In the instant the anger fled, the claws retracted, leaving her gasping for breath. She idly studied her knuckles once again they looked red and swollen, but the split skin had somehow sewn itself back together. She curled up on the floor, and promptly passed out.
When Sam woke again, she found herself lying against something soft. She groaned as she struggled to sit up. She felt Janet's hand press against her chest, pushing her back down. "Don't try to move yet, Sam."
Sam fought to focus her vision, since everything seemed blurred. She looked up to see Janet's face, and realized that she had her head cradled on Janet's thigh. Despite the pain pulsing along her arm, her concern was entirely focused on Janet, since the doctor's eyes were red and swollen from crying. Sam's voice was thick as she asked brokenly, "You ok, Janet? Don't look so good."
Gratitude flooded Sam as Janet managed a crooked grin in response.
The doctor offered a dry, "You don't look so good yourself."
Sam chuckled lightly, then squirmed out from under Janet's hand into a sitting position. She winced as her body argued with her, but as usual, she ignored it. She copied Janet's position, leaning back against the wall next to her friend. Her left arm dangled useless at her side, though she noted her wrist had been bandaged with a strip of cloth from the lab coat Janet was wearing. Sam saw red staining the cloth, and looked quickly away to keep her stomach under control. She reached out with her right arm to grab hold of Janet's hand, feeling the need to maintain some sort of physical contact to reassure both of them.
"What's going on here, Janet?" she asked quietly. "I mean, before those guys showed up, you seemed to have this insight into where we were."
Janet laughed bitterly and gripped tightly to Sam's hand. "Not exactly," she offered. "I mean, I don't have any idea where we are, but "
Her voice trailed off and Sam turned to look at her friend. "But?" she prompted.
Janet sighed. "This is going to sound absolutely crazy." She took a shuddering breath. "I feel like I'm losing my grip on reality here. It's like someone is projecting a massive wave of fear and pain, and it's taking over my mind." She shivered and refused to meet Sam's gaze. Her voice barely reached Sam's ear as she continued, "And I'm terrified that you aren't really here and that I have gone completely insane."
Sam gave Janet's hand a squeeze and then, having no idea where the impulse came from, she leaned over and kissed Janet's temple. "If you have the ability to question your sanity, I'm pretty sure you're still sane. And believe me, I'm no illusion. Illusions don't usually bleed much."
That earned a genuine laugh from Janet. "Okgood point." She paused as if collecting her thoughts, while Sam focused all her attention on the woman at her side, trying her damnedest to send reassurance in Janet's general direction.
Janet finally spoke slowly. "We seem to have been transformed into something out of a movie. Sam, we are dressed like and responding as if we are characters in the X-Men movie. Your claws, my sense of having people in my head, this room. It's like we really have been turned into mutants."
She paused and amusement crept into her tone, as if she was trying hard to keep herself from breaking down again. "I mean, I know you're not exactly into fashion or anything, but you surely noticed we are both out of uniform." The lightness wore off as she continued. "Not that you've had time to really pay attention to that fact, all things considered."
Of all the things Sam might have expected Janet to say, the X-Men statement was the next to last one. And the last thing Sam expected was that she had absolutely no desire to argue the point with Janet; her brain had taken the statement as fact the moment it was uttered. That easy acceptance alarmed her more than the actual content of Janet's sentence.
Having no idea what else to do, Sam stood and began to pace, hoping the action would somehow help her think. Janet rested her head on her knees and watched Sam. After several minutes of silence, Sam returned to her seat next to Janet. "I have no idea why, but I think you're right. It doesn't make any sense, but then nothing about this situation makes any sense. Not that I know anything about the X-Team "
"X-Men," Janet corrected automatically.
"X-Men," continued Sam, not missing a beat. "How did we get transformed, and by who, and how do you know anything about the X-Men?"
Sam turned to face her friend and was relieved to see an impish smile brighten the woman's features. She had not realized how scared Janet's emotional state had made her until Janet began acting like more like her normal self.
"I have a teenage daughter," Janet announced grandly, as if this fact was news to Sam. "A teenage daughter whothanks to her Samloves anything having to do with action adventure and science fiction. She cajoled me into seeing the movie with her."
Sam, no stranger to Cassie's cajoling, simply nodded knowingly. "So, since I'm the clueless one here," she asked, "what's the story?"
Now it was Janet's turn to stand and pace as she gave Sam the cliff notes version of the X-Mentheir mutations, the differing opinions on the roles of mutants, some of their adventures. She wrapped up her narration with the disclaimer, "Of course, that's just the bits and pieces I remember. Cassie could give you chapter and verse."
Sam nodded thoughtfully and then posed another question. "So who am I and who are you?"
Janet's eyes actually twinkled as she squatted down in front of Sam. "Well, given the claws, you must be Wolverine. And I must be Jean Gray."
Sam rolled her eyes. "And that tells me what, exactly?"
Janet sat down and placed her hands on Sam's knees, as Sam was sitting cross-legged. Sam found herself surprised at the amount of touching the two of them had done since their imprisonment. Usually, they were the epitome of professionals, even in the time they spent together as friends. She resolutely shoved that thought to the side to focus on Janet's words.
Janet rapped her knuckles lightly against Sam's knees. "Well, Jean Gray is a doctor "
"Big surprise there," Sam interrupted.
Unperturbed, Janet continued smoothly, " who also happens to have some telepathic ability, though she hasn't developed it to perhaps her fullest potential."
Sam recalled the mask of pain that Janet had been sporting earlier and realized, in somewhat belated shock, that the pain had been entirely mental. She grimaced at the idea of Janet having to cope with outside thoughts and feelings in her head. Though she had never been a telepath, Sam's brief stint as host to Jolinar gave her a sense of what Janet was dealing with.
"She is also the middle of a love triangle of sorts she has some sort of relationship with Cyclops, but also seems to have an attraction for Wolverine. Nothing consummated, at least not that I recall, but a strongly hinted interest."
Sam's mouth dropped open. She suddenly felt as if the fantasies she kept hidden even from herself were coming out in Janet's voice. Sam's long buried feelings came rushing into her awareness and she knew that she was attracted to Janet in a way she had never been attracted to anyone before.
She had been aware that she cared a lot for Janet and enjoyed working with Janet, but she had never allowed herself to even ponder anything more than friendship. Judging by the sympathetic look on Janet's face, Janet was well aware of her feelings. Hell, Sam thought tiredly, Janet--with her newly apparent telepathywas probably the reason both women were aware of them.
And then Sam noticed that instead of pulling away from her in disgust, Janet was actually still touching her knees. Their eyes caught for a moment, and Sam saw her own desire reflected back at her.
Sam reached out and placed her good hand on top of one of Janet's. Janet's hand turned in Sam's grip, and she stroked Sam's palm in a manner that could only be described with one worderotic. They sat in an emotionally charged tableau, almost paralyzed by the intensity of the moment.
Then Janet broke the spell, not moving at all, her fingers still painting knowing pictures on Sam's calloused palm, but resuming her explanation. "Wolverine is someone whose past is unknown. He was turned into a mutant, given the claws and an adamantium skeletal frame by someone, but he has no memory of who did that to him. He is a very troubled, very moody person. He would have been a mutant anyhow, without the tampering, since he has the ability to heal himself." She paused and her eyes left Sam's and traveled to Sam's abused arm. "Unfortunately, whoever did this to us, didn't quite manage that part." Then, she added thoughtfully, "Oddly enough, they seem to have missed everything but the claws."
Sam found her breath was caught in her throat, and her voice came out low and husky. "We'll sue them for misrepresentation."
Janet met Sam's eyes again. "We sure will," she murmured, her own tone pulsing with emotions that had nothing to do with their predicament. "You aren't really the Wolverine type."
Sam found herself caught in the glowing web cast by Janet's eyes. She could not think at all straight, which was not surprising since her thoughts were dancing in gay erotic directions. More to keep the conversation going than out of interest in the topic, she whispered, "So who should I be?"
Janet licked her lips as she considered, and Sam found her knees growing weak at the sight. "Good thing you're sitting down," Janet commented, her telepathy in top form. Then her voice dropped low, ignoring Sam's question entirely. "We really need to be careful if we're under some sort of surveillance don't want to give anyone emotional ammunition they could use against us."
The words had the effect of a bucket of cold water. "Right," Sam breathed, glad that thus far they had avoided saying anything incriminating. She had the momentary thought that if any other telepaths were floating around, it would be a moot point at best. Sam resolutely shoved that thought away before it could mire her in depression.
Janet pulled her hands off Sam's knees and slid back on the floor, sitting about a foot away from the other woman. She folded her knees to her chest and rested her head on them, staring at Sam.
Sam drummed her fingers on her thigh, her thoughts racing around in circles. "Ok, so we have a whole bunch of questions with no answers."
"No kidding," Janet said, doing her own imitation of O'Neill.
Sam shot her a bemused glare, and continued. "Ok, we have to assume that whoever did this to us is from Earth, to know about the movie, the comics, whatever. But then, why would they get some parts right, and completely screw up other parts? And why would they bother in the first place?
"I don't know of any science that has advanced far enough to actually take us and turn us into real mutants. And if they could do this, why would they do this experiment on you and I? There have to be a whole bunch of other people they could have kidnapped a lot more easily than either of us."
Janet nodded her agreement. "It's not exactly like either of us could just disappear without it being noticed right away. And for both of us to disappear "
She left the sentence lying unfinished. Sam picked it up. "Someone has gone to an awful lot of trouble to get us into their little experiment. But who on earth " (Janet smiled at the unintended pun.) " would have the capacity to do it?"
She broke off in her pondering and Janet raised a semi-personal question. "Sam, what's the last thing you remember before waking up here?"
Sam stood at the question and began to pace again, her arm dangling awkwardly. Janet jumped to her feet as well. "Here, let's take this lab coat and make you a sling." Sam stood still as the other woman ministered to her. Janet pulled back to inspect her work, and Sam got her first good look at the tight, well fitting shirt and pants Janet sported. Her face burned with heat as Janet followed her gaze. Janet leaned up to Sam's ear and whispered impishly, "Save that thought for later."
She resumed her seat on the floor while Sam resumed her pacing. Forcing her mind back to Janet's question, Sam finally answered. "The last thing I remember is the two of us in your office looking at what was it? Some kind of chemical analysis on a new kind of "
Sam crinkled her forehead with the effort to remember, and Janet jumped to her feet again to put a cool hand on Sam's forehead. Janet's eyes closed and suddenly Sam felt a surge of energy from Janet's hand into her head. She gasped in shock and then her brain was flooded with an array of imagery, swirling in wild and unfamiliar patterns. There were people and places whirling through her head so quickly she couldn't tell if she recognized any of them. She felt like she was watching a series of ads on extreme fast-forward.
She clutched hard at Janet's shoulder, willing herself to stay strong with the small part of her mind that didn't feel like it was spinning into madness. She vaguely heard Janet exclaim an understanding, "Oh my God."
And then the door that wasn't really a door shimmered into being. Janet removed her hand from Sam's head, and the images in Sam's mind fled as quickly as they'd come. She gasped in relief and only remained upright thanks to her iron grip on Janet's shoulder.
Both women turned with one accord and looked at the door to see Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c walk into the room. Both men moved cautiously and scanned the room, their weapons ready. O'Neill walked up to the women and looked quizzically at them. "You two okay?" he asked.
Sam could feel Janet frozen beside her and turned to once again see Janet's face glossed over with pain. Sam looked back to her CO, whose face was lined with its usual lack of patience. "Come on, kids," he commanded, "let's move it before anyone figures out you're gone."
He backed up a couple of steps, heading for the door, and Sam took a steadying breath, subtly moving forward in front of Janet. O'Neill gave her one of his best glares and growled, "You gonna stand there all day, Carter?" He gestured to Teal'c and the big man moved toward Sam, grabbing hold of her arm.
"We must leave this place, Major Carter," Teal'c said calmly. "It is not safe for us to remain."
Sam's heart was thudding in her chest, racing along with her thoughts. The whole scene smelled fishy to her, but she couldn't quite decide whether to trust her own senses. She spared a glance over her shoulder, and found Janet's eyes. The terror radiating out from them made up Sam's mind. With a burst of energy, she shook her arm out from under Teal'c's hand, grabbed hold of the unresisting Janet, and moved both of them away from the Jaffa.
O'Neill sighed in exasperation and moved toward her, his eyes hard glints of steel. He dropped his weapon to the ground and walked over to stand in front of Sam. "That wasn't very nice, Carter," he commented, in a singsong voice. "You need to learn some better manners."
His hand was a blur as he backhanded Sam across the face. She fell to the floor, gritting her teeth as her arm bounced out of its sling. She looked up and watched in horror as O'Neill backhanded Janet as well, sending her to sprawl on top of Sam. Janet was whimpering, but Sam doubted it was because of the blow.
The adrenaline surged through Sam, enabling her to forget all about pain. She took hold of Janet, whose body felt limp as a rag doll, and sat up with the woman cradled against her. Then she gently laid Janet on the floor. The doctor and current telepath whimpered again and huddled up in a ball.
Sam knew, with a flash of insight that suggested latent telepathy on her part, that there was no way in which Janet could help her in the current fight; the doctor was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions against which she had no defenses. Sam took a spare second to wonder whether the invasion of Janet's mind was a deliberate attack, or just indiscriminate thoughts.
The small smirk on Teal'c's face convinced Sam that the mental assault was definitely intentional. Sam patted Janet's head in a brief show of concern, and then scrambled to her feet.
O'Neill just stood, looking cocky as always, waiting to see what she would do. She stared at him, then at Teal'c, who had taken an impassive seat on one of the beds. O'Neill said, challenging, "Let's see how much of a bad-ass you really are, Carter."
He stepped forward and Janet whimpered again, and oddly enough, the terrified sound served to focus Sam's anger. All at once she found the claws springing out from her hands and, knowing what was happening, she managed not to impale herself again. She growled low in her throat and stepped forward, claws poised to strike. O'Neill just stood with a sneer on his face, his hands hanging loose at his side as if he were an old-fashioned gunfighter.
But instead of lashing out with her hands, she jumped up in a sudden snap kick and got O'Neill square in the chest. He flew backwards, sliding across the floor. Sam watched, amazed, as his body blurred, and then changed before her eyes to turn female, blue, and royally pissed off.
S/he jumped to her feet, and then launched herself at Sam. Sam slashed out with her claws, drawing blood where they bit into a forearm, but not enough to slow her attacker. S/he jumped up, whirled around in the air, and lashed out in a kick that caught Sam in the side. Sam flew through the air and crashed into the wall, landingof courseon her injured arm. She gasped and then heard Janet scream on her behalf. As much to convince herself as to convince Janet, Sam muttered, "Good thing it's the one that's already broken."
She hauled herself to her feet. The blue woman laughed and said in O'Neill's voice. "You want some more?"
Sam glanced over at Teal'c. He sat as still as stone, eyes unmoving. She spared an ounce of attention to wonder what his role in the little drama was, and then was struck by a sudden thought. She had no time to think it through, since a flash of movement caught her eye. The blue woman rushed her and Sam stabbed upward with her good claw, getting a nice portion of her attackers left shoulder. S/he was impaled on the sharp points and Sam did her best imitation of a javelin thrower, sending the blue creature to crash into the wall.
Sam took advantage of the momentary suspension in the fight to send an urgent mental question to Janet. The doctor's response came in a gasped, "Yes."
Before the blue woman could get a hold of her, Sam raced to Teal'c and stabbed him through the heart with all her strength. She heard an angry shriek of protest behind her, and then felt herself grabbed roughly and kicked hard enough to crack three ribs. She collapsed on the floor as the blue woman raced to Teal'c's side. The Jaffa shifted form, blood streaming from his chest, turning into an identical twin of Sam's attacker. The blue woman caught her twin as she fell, and cradled her as she died.
The last thing Sam saw before she passed out again was a blue foot aimed at her face.
Once again, Sam drifted back to consciousness with the awareness that her head was resting on something soft, which given past experience she assumed to be Janet's thigh. She groaned dramatically as her waking mind suddenly had to cope with painlots and lots of pain. A gentle hand patted her cheek as another hand made soft circles in her hair. "It's okay, Sam," came Janet's whisper.
Sam groaned again and didn't try to do anything complicated, like open her eyes. She simply lay as still as she could, enjoying the soothing feel of Janet's hands.
Silence reigned for long moments. Finally Sam concentrated on opening her eyes, and blinked rapidly, trying to focus. Gradually Janet's features came together in sharp relief, and Sam noticed that once again her eyes were red and swollen.
Sam swallowed hard and managed to get out, "We've got to stop meeting like this."
Janet offered a thin smile, but made no comment. Her hands continued petting Sam, and the blonde just lay quiet, taking deliberate breaths to chase away the pain. She had mostly succeeded when she felt Janet give a deep sigh, as if in relief.
Sam gave her friend a measuring look and then the realization popped clearly into the forefront of her mind. Before she had the chance to say a word, Janet said lightly, "Yes, I have been feeling all your pain." She paused and her tone grew dry. "Apparently I'm highly empathic as well as telepathic."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Apparently."
Janet gave a genuine smile at her comment, and her voice was warm as she said, "It's nice to be able to say things to someone who doesn't need every little thing spelled out." Sam smiled in return, thinking of O'Neill's easy exasperation with her attempts to explain things to him.
And then, with the thought of O'Neill, the recollection of the fight came back to haunt Sam's mind, and by extension, Janet's as well. Sam shivered as she remembered O'Neill changing before her, and as she remembered stabbing Teal'c. She clenched her functioning hand into a fist.
"What was that blue thing I was fighting?"
Janet offered an abrupt laugh, which was completely devoid of humor. "Mystique. Shape shifter. Definite bad guy gal whatever. She can turn herself into anyone. I'm a little confused as to why there were two of them; the movie only had one." She laughed again, still humorless, "Whoever did this is really screwing up the details."
Sam did an unconscious imitation of Teal'c as she mutteredin response to Janet's first statement, "That is certainly ominous."
Janet kept her hands busy caressing Sam's cheek and hair. Sam closed her eyes again, trying to stop her thoughts from running around like spooked kittens. She was suddenly--and achingly--aware of how her confusion was keeping Janet off-balance. Their assailants had effectively killed two birds with one stone by making Janet a telepath. In order for them to find a way out of this mess, Sam knew she had to keep her thoughts under control.
"That would certainly help," Janet breathed, as if she was scared that anything more than a whisper would sound accusing to Sam's ears.
Sam simply nodded, eyes still closed, and concentrated again on breathing. When she finally opened her eyes, she noted that Janet's face seemed less strained. Janet had closed her eyes and Sam reached up carefully with her good hand to rest her fingertips against Janet's wrist. Her touch was light, to avoid startling the doctor.
"Janet?" she began cautiously.
Janet gazed down at her, eyebrows raised in a knowing look, as if she was ready to answer the unspoken question. Sam grinned and proceeded to ask anyway, hoping the sound of her own voice would help keep her thoughts in some semblance of order.
"Right before the Co before those two before that last fight, you seemed to have some idea what was going on. There were all those weird images in my head and then you acted like you understood something. What was it that you figured out?"
Janet sighed, frustration edging her face. "I wish I knew," she said seriously. "I had it all figured out and then those people came in and incapacitated me with "
She broke off, chewing her lip, and Sam slid her fingers over Janet's hand, twining their fingers together. She lay very still and tried to mentally project a sense of strength for Janet to draw on. She had no idea if it would work, but given Janet's sensitivity to her emotions, Sam figured it couldn't hurt to try.
Janet squeezed Sam's fingers in a silent "thank you", and then continued with her explanation, or more accurately, with her lack of an explanation.
"Well, I don't really know what they did, but it was a deliberate overload of negative images and emotions," Janet said simply, as if a more in-depth description would do nothing to clarify things. Sam gave a brief nod, her memories of Jolinar coming back to fill in the blanks.
The conversation stalled for a moment and Sam decided it was time to sit up and get her body used to moving again. Before she could ask for help, Janet was already putting supportive hands on Sam's shoulders. Sam stifled several groans as she managed to get herself upright. She could feel every bruise from the last fight, and was aware of her arm throbbing dully. She took a series of deep breaths, trying to get the pain under control before it overwhelmed Janet. Luckily, success came quickly.
Sam sat right next to Janet, so that their bodies were pressed together. She felt herself drawing strength simply from having contact with the doctor. And the touch seemed to soothe Janet as well; she rested her head on Sam's shoulder. Sam shifted around, wincing a little, and slid her right arm around Janet's waist, pulling the brunette closer to her. Sam laid her head against Janet's, while Janet's arms circled Sam in a light embrace.
After a while, Sam let another thought enter the silence. "The thing that bothers me well, ok, one of the things that bothers me, is the time factor. Someone had to get into the complex with sufficient security clearance. Then they had to get both of us out without being seen. Then they had to keep us knocked out long enough to do some pretty in depth surgery--particularly on you--without anyone finding us, and you know O'Neill and General Hammond would have been pulling a lot of high level strings to get us found."
She paused and Janet finished the thought. "You're right. It doesn't feel like we've been gone for the amount of time it would take to do this to someone. We barely understand how the human mind works; how the hell would someone be able to turn me into a telepath that quickly?"
Both women pulled back from the embrace, stared at each other, and started to say, "What if ?" when the door appeared again. O'Neill and Teal'c walked in, weapons ready, and made a cautious sweep of the room.
"You guys okay?" O'Neill asked. "We'd better get out of here, those guards aren't gonna be out for too much longer." He reached out a hand to help Carter off the floor, frowning when she turned to Janet.
"What do you think?" she asked the doctor, since Janet had no immediate negative reaction to the appearance of their teammates.
Teal'c spoke. "We do not have time to discuss these matters at present. We must leave this place."
Janet cocked her head to the side and answered in a measured tone. "I can't sense anything from them." She looked meaningfully at Sam. "You, however "
Sam, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, knew exactly what Janet meant. She glanced from one man to the other.
O'Neill didn't bother to hide his impatience. "You gonna sit there all day, Carter? Let's get your ass in gear. You too, Fraiser."
Janet put a hand on Sam's arm. "I don't see how it can hurt. Maybe we'll find some answers." She struggled to her feet and leaned over to help Sam up. Sam groaned as her body protested the movement. As if oblivious to the entire exchange, O'Neill and Teal'c led the pair out of the room.
They stepped out into a featureless corridor, made of a material that looked like a cross between metal and plastic. Sam was leaning on Janet, but abruptly Teal'c picked her up off her feet and slung her over his shoulder effortlessly. He strode down the corridor and Sam raised her head from his back to see O'Neill reach out for Janet, as if to assist her.
The minute he touched her, Janet cried out in protest and shoved him away. He muttered several choice words including, "damn half-assed shielding". He raised one arm to strike Janet and pulled his gun from his holster with the other. As she watched the scene unfold, Sam's claws popped out with a sharp clang. Sam could almost see her own anger as an aura radiating outward from her body.
And suddenly Janet sprang to life with the force of Sam's anger. The half-assed shielding O'Neill had cursed served to protect her from the force the men's minds could assert, allowing her to access Sam's emotions freely. She kicked the apparition of O'Neill viciously between the legs. He yelped and crumpled in a useless heap on the ground. Janet gave a hard hit to a sensitive spot on his neck, leaving him gasping. Sam, for her part, raked her claws down Teal'c's back, and then elbowed him in the back of the head.
She cried out as he threw her off of him, sending her into the wall. He whirled around, the rage on his face convincing her that this was not her Teal'ceven at his most emotional, she had never seen a look like this on the Jaffa's face. She lay winded and he walked forward to tower menacingly over her.
But then Janet was there and she jumped in between them, getting in a vicious kick to his groin as well, and he joined his companion in floor warming. Before Sam could even muster an out-of-breath "thanks", Janet had picked up Teal'c's energy staff and fired on each of their non-teammates. Both men jerked under the bolt, and both lay unconscious.
Clutching the staff in one hand, Janet pulled Sam to her feet with the other. Sam retrieved O'Neill's gun from his unconcerned hand, and leaned against Janet as they scurried down the corridor.
Sam and Janet huddled against each other as they listened to footsteps pass by their hiding place. They had stumbled into a den of sorts, and found a tiny closet concealed behind a bookshelf. It just managed to hold the two of them.
"Outside!" yelled an angry voice. "They must have gotten out of the house somehow; we've searched everywhere!"
The two women sat perfectly still as the footsteps increased in number, and then receded. After what she deemed to be a safe amount of time, Sam moved cautiously out of her hiding place and into the den. She risked a peek out the window, and saw an entire army of blue creatures methodically searching the grounds.
"Janet, come here. You've got to see this," Sam whispered. The doctor moved gingerly out of hiding to join her companion at the window. Janet started in amazement at the sight of multiple Mystiques, and then both women slid quietly into sitting positions under the window ledge.
"I don't understand this at all," Janet complained softly. "It's like someone took great pains to turn us into mutants, and place us in what must be an alternate reality, and then screwed up all the details."
Sam jerked in sudden recollection of the thought the two had shared before the apparitions of their teammates had appeared. "Janet," she said urgently, "this isn't an alternate reality "
Before she could finish, Janet stepped in, reading Sam's thoughts. "It's virtual reality."
Not missing a beat, Sam picked up the trail of words. "We haven't really been transformed into mutants; we just have been programmed to think that we have. None of this is real."
Sam set down the gun she'd picked up in the last fight and ran her hand through her hair, giving a tired sigh as she realized the implications of what she'd just said.
For her part, Janet set down the energy staff to grab hold of Sam's good hand. The doctor amended, "Well, nothing's real except the two of us." Her tone grew dry. "You are real, aren't you?"
Sam smiled at that. "I sure hope so. How about you?"
Janet raised an eyebrow and the look of mischief Sam had grown to love crept across the brunette's face. "If I'm not, then this little discovery of our mutual attraction is going to make you feel very awkward when you return to the SGC."
Sam couldn't help laughing at that, despite their predicament. Her laughter proved infectious, and despite the need for silence, they couldn't stop giggling like two teenagers.
Neither woman was particularly surprised when two blue twins burst into the den, heavily armed. "On your feet NOW," snarled one.
Janet, still overcome with mirth, and perhaps feeling like there was really nothing to lose by being incorrigible, asked, "Why? Are we late for a hot date or something?"
One blue twin stalked forward, eyes glowing an eerie red. "I wouldn't suggest being a smart-ass. You'll pay a high price for it."
Sam started to pull her hand out of Janet's grasp, to reach out for the gun she'd set aside. But she discarded the idea of shooting the Mystiques as quickly as it had occurred to her, realizing she and Janet would be hopelessly outnumbered before they could escape.
Sam left her hand in her friend's grip, and then another thought occurred to her. Sam turned over an option in her head, and then spoke quickly. "There's nothing more you can do to us. This isn't real. You're not real. Nothing that happens here is real. I don't believe in this reality!"
Janet's head snapped around to stare at Sam, and then she too refuted the existence of reality well, of the reality that was being projected around them.
The blue twins threatened the women, and when words didn't work, they resorted to violence. Sam and Janet didn't offer any resistance to the blows raining down. They simply sat holding tightly to each other's hand and repeating, "This is not real."
A bright flash
A sense that the world itself was spinning
Another bright flash
And Sam opened her eyes to find herself sitting in a chair, electrodes strapped to her. The electrodes were connected to wires, which were in turn connected to machines humming quietly in the background. She shook her head, trying to jar her thoughts into some semblance of order.
She glanced to her side and saw Janet in a chair similar to hers, wires hooked to the same machinery. Janet, too, was shaking her head, as if to clear it.
With a grimace of distaste, Sam removed the various electrodes attached to her, and shrugged herself out of the chair. She staggered over to Janet and started removing electrodes, helping her free herself.
Ever the doctor, Janet observed quietly, "It's nice to see your injuries were all virtual."
Sam regarded herself with some surprise, noticing as if for the first time that her arm was no longer broken and her bruises had faded to a memory. She helped Janet out of the chair and asked, "How about you? Still picking up unwelcome thoughts?"
Janet stepped close to Sam and whispered suggestively in her ear, "They weren't all unwelcome, you know."
Sam bowed her head in a futile attempt to hide the blush she could feel spreading across her cheeks. Janet laughed lightly and laid a reassuring hand on Sam's arm. Answering the actual question, she said, "I can't sense anything from you. Or from anyone else for that matter."
Sam nodded and looked thoughtfully around the room. It was white and virtually empty with no windows, but was made out of good old-fashioned concrete. And there was a door, one without any means of opening from their side, but a door nonetheless. There were ugly metal spikes around the door edges, as if to somehow deter any prisoner from an escape attempt.
"Ok, so we're out of virtual reality," Janet pondered aloud, watching as Sam went to examine the door. "We still have no idea why we're here, or how to get out of here."
"Don't forget we still have no idea who did this, or how they got to us," Sam tossed out, as she finished examining the hinges and then leaned over to look at the opposite side of the door. And then, unexpectedly, the door was thrown open, catching Sam on the side of the head and knocking her flat, the metal spikes cutting an ugly path into her flesh.
Janet immediately ran to her, and helped her sit up. "So much for getting out of here without injuries," Sam moaned, holding her bleeding temple.
Janet shot back neatly, "Doesn't seem to matter which reality you're in; you just can't seem to stay out of trouble."
Any further conversation was stopped dead at the sight of the two figures that burst into the room. Sam and Janet looked up at O'Neill and Teal'c, and then stared in frozen shock at each other.
"Alright kids, as glad as I am that we found you, we don't have a lot of time until the guards wake up from their little naps, so we'd better get a move on," O'Neill announced, leaning down to offer a hand to Carter.
"Oh my God," Sam whispered, her eyes still glued to Janet.
O'Neill hauled her to her feet and smirked at her statement. "No need to worship me, Carter, just doing my job."
Janet scrambled to her feet, and stood right beside Sam. The blonde pulled away from O'Neill and surveyed him, feeling Janet's hand pressing into the small of her back. Then Sam noticed it wasn't just their two teammates in the roomthere were ten other people, all in military uniforms, all armed.
Teal'c paced over to the two chairs. He reached out to touch the wires and Janet yelped, "Don't!"
He cocked his head to the side quizzically, but held his hand back. O'Neill shot a questioning look at the doctor. "What are those things, Doc?"
It was the use of O'Neill's nickname for Janet that shook Sam out of her state of shock, to accept that this wasn't simply a continuation of their previous nightmare. Before Janet could reply, Sam offered the explanation. "Virtual reality devices. We were trapped in virtual reality."
Janet must have sensed Sam's shift in mood via her hand on Sam's back because she moved forward and said quietly, "We haven't been exactly sure what is real and what isn't."
O'Neill gave a low whistle. "Gonna be a hell of a de-briefing."
As if O'Neill's recollection to duty prompted the Jaffa, Teal'c stated, "We must discuss this later. The guards will awaken at any time."
"Right," came the Colonel's response. "Need any help, Carter?" he asked, seeing the way she was bleeding.
"I'll be fine, Sir," she managed, as Janet slid an arm around her waist.
O'Neill nodded and pointed his team out of the room. Janet and Sam followed the group, with Teal'c and O'Neill bringing up the rear. Sam noticed that the building they were in looked like old military barracks. They moved quickly down a narrow corridor and emerged into an open courtyard.
The group in front broke into a run, heading for a grove of trees fifty meters away, and Sam and Janet followed suit. Sam could hear O'Neill and Teal'c right on her heels. Then she heard a less welcome sound: namely gunshots.
"Shit!" snapped O'Neill, before ordering, "Teal'c, with me everyone else, move it!" Sam sensed, rather than saw, her teammates drop down to their knees to return fire. She continued running, now supporting Janet. They reached the safety of the trees and one of the men pushed Sam and Janet into the back of a waiting military truck.
Sam peered out from her position, watching as a covering fire was laid down so Teal'c and the Colonel could make it to safety. As soon as they'd cleared the trees, the truck engine roared and twelve people essentially flew into the back of the truck to join Sam and Janet. With a lurch, the truck sped off, untouched by the gunfire following in its wake.
Sam sat on the edge of an infirmary bed, waiting impatiently for Doctor Matthews to finish bandaging her head. He had already run all his post-mission tests on her, and was now re-cleaning and re-bandaging the cuts left by the door spikes.
"Any dizziness or nausea?" he asked, for what Sam estimated was the thousandth time.
"The answer is still no," she said through gritted teeth. He was a fine doctor, but as he lacked Janet's sensitivity, he had a tendency to poke and prod with a bit too much enthusiasm. As if her thought of Janet was a summons, the brunette appeared in the doorway.
"Are you about done here?" she queried of Matthews. "We're due at the de-briefing in fifteen minutes."
He slapped a last layer of adhesive tape on Sam's skin, completely oblivious to her wincing. "Ok then, that's it. And if you do start experiencing dizziness or nausea "
"I know, I know--come see you," Sam finished for him quickly before he could continue offering instructions.
He waved a dismissive hand, but there was a smile on his face. Sam wasted no time in jumping off the exam table and escaping with Janet.
The duo walked down the hallways of the SGC, and Sam, at least, felt a surge of relief at being back on familiar ground. She spared a look at Janet and noted the doctor seemed to be thinking the same thing.
Janet looked up to meet her gaze, and Sam felt her heart flutter and her cheeks grow flushed at the warmth written across the other woman's face.
She took a deep breath to regain her equilibrium, all too conscious of the omnipresent security cameras. Janet smoothly covered the moment by asking, "How's your head feeling?"
Sam found the wit to say something entirely appropriate to the situation, no mean feat considering that her heart was still fluttering and her thoughts were a world away. Janet arched an eyebrow at her, looking--no doubt--like a very concerned doctor, but Sam could read the amusement flickering in the chocolate brown eyes.
They broke the gaze, eyes filled with awareness of how careful they would need to be in the de-briefing to not give away the secret of their mutual attraction. They walked on in silence.
As de-briefings go, it had been fairly smooth. General Hammond and the other members of SG-1 had listened thoughtfully as first Sam, and then Janet, had given their respective versions of events. Sam had felt her stomach churn as she described the fights with the Mystiques wearing the faces of O'Neill and Teal'c. She noted that Teal'c did not seem perturbed by her account, but O'Neill looked shaken by the thought of someone else wearing his face and attacking his friends.
General Hammond cleared his throat meaningfully. "It sounds like you've been through quite an ordeal, so I'll try to keep this brief. But I think you deserve to know what we've found, and what happened while you were gone. For starters, this may come as a bit of a shock, but you've been missing for over a month."
Sam turned to Janet, and saw her own shock reflected on the other woman's face. Janet's mouth hung open and she asked quickly, "How's Cassie holding up?"
The General smiled. "You'll be happy to know she's doing fine. She's been staying with Lt. Saunders and his family. She's been worried, of course, but she never doubted that we would find you. In fact, by the time we're done here, she and Lt. Saunders will be waiting at your house for the two of you to arrive. She's anxious to see the both of you."
At his words, Sam let out a breath she hadn't been aware of holding; beside her, Janet did the same. "Thank you for making sure she was taken care of, Sir," Janet said, her eyes filling with grateful tears.
It was O'Neill who responded. "Well, you know, we are good for something around here."
Daniel jumped in quickly, "It was really no trouble. Lt. Saunders says she spends most of her time over there with his two daughters anyway. Said she's a lot easier to handle than his own teenagers."
Janet managed a smile at that. Sam reached out surreptitiously under the table and patted the doctor's thigh reassuringly.
Hammond cleared his throat. "Back to business people. Colonel, why don't you tell them what's been going on here on our end of things?"
Before O'Neill could say a word, Sam blurted out, "We really have been gone for a month? It didn't feel like we'd been gone any significant amount of time."
O'Neill spread his hands wide in a gesture of "beats the hell out of me".
Daniel scratched lightly at his head. "Well, I've given that some thought. You had probably been in various virtual settings as a way of testing the machines. In order for each experience to seem real, you would probably have had your previous ones erased somehow, retaining only the last virtual scene you were inso you would understandably not feel like you'd been gone as long as you have been."
Teal'c cocked his head to the side and quirked an eyebrow; O'Neill glowered his incomprehension; General Hammond's forehead wrinkled in thought.
Sam, however, nodded thoughtfully and glanced at Janet to find her doing the same. As if they were once again the only two people in the room, Janet whispered, "That makes as much sense as any other explanation I can think of."
O'Neill cleared his throat self-consciously. "Yeah, what Daniel just said."
Sam jerked her gaze away from the doctor and focused in on the Colonel. "You were saying, Sir?"
O'Neill sat forward in his chair, hands folded on the tabletop. "We didn't even know you'd disappeared at first. I mean, you both went off to that conference thing "
Sam raised an eyebrow and glanced back at Janet, who was biting her lip in an attempt to recall what the Colonel was talking about.
Daniel noticed the exchange, and sat back in his chair, drumming his fingers as he spoke. "It was the Scientific Ethics Conference. You both were supposed to be panel members for a discussion on the right to keep research private versus the right of the public to know about it."
Janet's tone echoed Sam's incredulity. "We were?"
Hammond frowned. "Are you telling me you don't remember this?"
Sam licked her lips and shook her head. She glanced at Janet and noticed the doctor frowning.
"Well, Sir, I don't remember any of this," Janet began tentatively, "but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
"If we were conditionedso to speak, brainwashed--so that we would believe in the virtual worlds we experienced, I would not be surprised to find that the events occurring just prior to the virtual reality experience have become tenuous and diluted into just another bit of that experience in our minds. And considering that we barely remember any of our experiences during the past month, it's hard to say exactly what period of time has been essentially erased in our memories."
O'Neill, Teal'c, and Hammond exchanged confused glances, while Daniel's eyes widened.
Sam jumped in to translate. "She means that we may have some gaps in our memories because we might be thinking that some actual experiences were virtual experiences, since they happened so close in time to our "
She trailed off, not sure exactly what term to use.
"I believe 'kidnapping' is the correct term, Major Carter," Teal'c offered. "That is, however, an odd term to employ, as neither of you are children, nor were you sleeping."
Daniel broke in. "It's just a figure of speech, Teal'c. Anyway, I agree with Doctor Fraiser. Probably all the events right up to the kidnapping will be foggy, at best, in their memories."
Sam looked again at O'Neill. "So who did this to us? And how did you find us?"
She and Janet sat spellbound as O'Neill described the month-long search and the lengths SG-1 and General Hammond had gone to in order to find them.
Finally he concluded his summation. "To be honest, it was a lucky break. One of the guys over in Research and Development was here working on a project, and he was plenty pissed off about something. I took him out for a couple of drinks and he ended up telling me that he couldn't handle kidnapping good military officers to use as unwitting test subjects.
"When he sobered up, I took him to the General and he confessed everything to us. Maybourne and his crew were running virtual tests to see how people would handle being turned into mutants, because human mutation is one of the things they are working to make a reality.
"They seem to think that mutated humans will stand a better chance at fighting the Goa'uld, and they've been ordered by their superiors to get all the details ironed out before they start actually turning people into mutants. They kidnapped you, so that they could get realistic reactions from people who didn't know it was just a test."
Sam's jaw dropped open in shock and she could only stare as Janet asked, "Why would they kidnap us?"
It was Hammond who answered. "According to our source, it appears they wanted to gauge the reactions of people who are used to dealing with unusual situationswhich the two of you are given your work here--and with the two of you being out of the mountain, you were easy to get to.
"We are attempting to substantiate the information and file charges, but the facility from which you were rescued has no actual ties to Research and Developmentnor do the hired guards we captured--and the man who gave us the information has vanished without a trace, so for now we simply have to be content to have you both back safely."
Sam felt a surge of anger at the utter audacity of Maybourne and his team; though given her past interactions with the man she had no difficulty believing him capable of such tactics. She looked idly down at her hands as if she was still half-expecting the anger to make claws pop out of her skin.
Beside her, Janet's tone conveyed Sam's emotions. "What a horrible, horrible price to pay for an accurate experiment. Especially one whose very premise is flawed."
The General agreed, and then they discussed the situation a bit more before he concluded the de-briefing. "Ok, that's enough for now. Frankly, you both look exhausted, and Cassie is waiting to see you. I'd like you both to come in and meet with myself and a psych team tomorrow afternoon."
The two women nodded in unison and Hammond dismissed his group.
Sam offered a "thank you" to her teammates, who shrugged off the sentiment.
O'Neill squirmed uncomfortably and spoke for all of them. "Yeah, well, we're just glad you're both back. Things just don't run as well when you're gone."
Janet's face was a study in amusement, and Sam offered a broad smile. Any further discussion was forestalled by the arrival of a driver to take the two women to Fraiser's house, where Cassie was waiting.
Sam rolled cautiously onto her side, trying hard not to disturb the sleeping form curled up close to her. She had been trying to fall asleep with no success, despite her exhaustion, and she hoped that a change in position would do the trick. The figure beside her stirred briefly, but remained layered in slumber as Sam finally got herself settled.
Sam looked across the bed to find Janet staring at her bemusedly. The doctor was also on her side and wide-awake. One of Janet's hands rubbed gently at Cassie's back; Cassie sighed in her sleep and snuggled closer to Sam.
"As hyper as she's been all day, why is it that she's asleep and we're awake?" Janet's whisper held equal parts irony and wonder.
Sam smiled at that. It had, indeed, been a joyful homecoming. She'd practically had to pull Cassie off the ceiling. The girl had barely allowed either woman to leave her sight for something as simple as bathroom breaks.
"I'm a little worried about her," Sam confessed. "She seems awfully clingy wanting to sleep with both of us and "
She broke off as Janet reached out over her daughter's head to run a gentle finger along Sam's jaw. "She'll be fine. This is just her way of reassuring herself that us being home is not just a dream. Believe me, she will be fine."
Sam nodded, then reached up to trace over Janet's finger with one of her own. "How about you, Janet? Are you going to be fine?"
Janet scooted closer to Cassie, so that she wasn't straining to reach Sam. She pulled her hand away from Sam's face to let it lie lightly on Sam's waist. For her part, Sam reached over and stroked Janet's cheek and neck before letting her hand mimic Janet's. Sam looked down to reassure herself that Cassie was still soundly asleep underneath the bridge of their arms.
Janet sighed, very softly. "I'll be ok eventually. I don't like the feeling that someone's been messing with our heads."
Sam's response came in the form of a mirthless laugh. "I'm still furious that it was our own Research team that did this. I don't put it past Maybourne, but I just can't believe that other officers let this happen. It's like some sick joke."
Janet ran her hand very lightly along the curve of Sam's hip. "Good thing you aren't really Wolverine," she teased. "I wouldn't want to try explaining to Matthews how I got claw marks along my waist."
Sam felt her anger fade as Janet's words sank in, and she ran her hand along Janet's side and up to her face. Caressing Janet's cheek, she said with a smile, "Well, like you said, I'm not really the Wolverine type."
Janet sighed again and pressed her face against Sam's hand. Sam felt her breath catch in her throat, awed by the simple gesture.
Janet's eyes grew thoughtful as she regarded Sam. "Are you going to be ok?"
Sam offered a half-smile. "Eventually," she echoed Janet. "I'm feeling a little like I need to hibernate for a while, and take some time away to get to where I feel a little more able to trust people."
Janet moved her hand up to cup the side of Sam's face. "I know just what you mean. I'm not feeling very trusting myself. And you're welcome to stay here as long as you like we can hibernate together."
Sam licked her lips and blinked back a sudden wave of longing. The words were out of her mouth before she even was aware of their presence. "God, I'd love nothing more than to be here with you."
Janet levered herself up on an elbow and stretched cautiously over the top of Cassie's slight form. She pressed her lips to Sam's cheek, to the tip of Sam's nose, and finally let them linger on Sam's forehead. Sinking back down onto her side, Janet offered, "And I would love to have you here with me."
Sam looked down again at Cassie, who was dead to the world for all intents and purposes. She looked back up into Janet's warm brown eyes, and just let herself stare into the liquid gaze. Time slowed down, or maybe ceased to exist all together, as they hung in the shared lookthe kind that sees far into the soul.
Cassie broke the intense gaze by turning in her sleep to cuddle against Janet. Janet exhaled a shaky breath as she looked down at her daughter. "Wow," was all she could whisper.
Sam swallowed hard, trying to tamp down some of the feelings rushing through her. She was very conscious of the low throb of arousal pulsing in time with her heartbeat. She caught Janet's gaze again, and could see the flame of desire burning in the brown eyes.
"Where do we go from here?"
It was a simple question on Janet's lips, but the seriousness of it--in context of the reality of their lives--gave each word the weight of a soliloquy. Janet looked away from Sam's searching gaze, as if she feared the answer.
Sam reached out and tilted Janet's head up. "All I know," Sam said, her words quiet and careful, "is that given the nightmare we've endured, we deserve to have some happiness." She broke off and smiled at the sudden influx of hope scrolling across the doctor's face.
Janet captured Sam's hand in her own, and pressed both hands against her face. "Just being with you makes me happy."
Sam offered a light laugh. "Likewise. You know, Janet, I never knew you were so "
Janet stuck out her tongue and then yawned. Sam felt her own eyelids growing heavy.
Sam patted Janet's face and disentangled her hand from Janet's grip. "We really should get some sleep."
Janet responded by lying down and yawning again. Sam followed suit and closed her eyes. It was as if the need for the conversation had been the only thing keeping them awake.
As she began to drift into sleep, Sam heard Janet whisper, "This certainly gives new meaning to the phrase 'we finally slept together'." Sam fell asleep chuckling.
It had been an eventful few days. There were the psych evaluations and then official statements about their experiences. And there were seemingly endless medical tests, checking to see if the machines had caused any residual damage. (Even Janet's patience with her staff had given out after a couple days.)
Finally, the General put a stop to what Janet had begun calling "our days as virtual reality poster children." He reminded them again that he was glad they were back and then promptly sent them away for a week's leave.
Sam lay back against the arm of Janet's couch, a beer in one hand, and the tv's remote control in the other. Cassie had gone to bed half an hour before, and Janet was in the kitchen, talking to a friend on the phone.
Sam found herself amazed by the fact that no matter how many channels she flipped through, she could find nothing to watch. Then she found herself amazed by the fact that she had been searching fruitlessly since Cass went to bed. She hit the off button, laughing at herself.
Janet walked into the room, plopping down on the opposite end of the couch from Sam, a glass of wine in her hand. "What's so funny?"
"I've turned into the Colonel," Sam announced with more than a touch of mockery. Janet shrugged her incomprehension; Sam waved the remote in the air to illustrate.
"Well, Sam, if you're bored, there's plenty of other things you could do," Janet offered, as if Sam were no older than Cassie.
"Well, the bathroom needs to be cleaned and there's still laundry to fold and " She broke off as Sam stuck out her lower lip and pouted. "Oh, you wanted something fun to do."
Sam fought to contain her amusement; continuing to pout. She liked this side of Janeta teasing side she rarely saw. As an officer, Janet was tough as nails and stubborn as ivy roots, and as a doctor, she was gentle and warm. For some odd reason, they didn't share a whole lot of laughs in the SGC.
Janet set her glass down and moved closer to Sam. She leaned over and pressed her lips against Sam'sand Sam lost any thoughts of continued pouting. The touch was light and tentative, and could still be considered friendly.
Janet pulled back, her cheeks pink and Sam took a slow breath. "Is that fun, Sam?" Janet asked, her voice low and husky with emotion.
"It would be, if I wasn't scared out of my mind," Sam whispered in a rush of honesty.
Janet raised an elegant eyebrow. "If it's any consolation, I'm terrified."
Sam exhaled sharply and stroked a gentle path through Janet's bangs. "We haven't crossed over any lines yet. We're still standing firmly on the side of friendship. We can stay friends without anything to haunt us later."
A serious expression etched itself across Janet's face. "True but that wouldn't change how either of us feels, would it? We'd still know there is something else there. I don't know about you, but the knowledge would probably haunt me more than us experimenting."
Sam kept her fingers busy in Janet's hair, mulling over the truth of her words. "We could end up losing everything, Janet," she observed quietly, not able to meet the doctor's eyes. "Even a simple kiss could get us both booted out of the military."
She felt Janet's finger on the tip of her chin as the other woman coaxed her head up. Sam met Janet's eyes and saw the flash of anger burning in them. "And this is the same military that Maybourne works for, whose superiors just condoned putting us through hell. Let's not forget that little point. It might just be worth getting kicked out."
Sam's breath caught in her throat at Janet's words. She sat up straight and took Janet's face in both her hands. "You can't be serious, Janet."
The brunette smiled briefly. "Not entirely. I'm just saying that this virtual reality thing has kind of made me wonder whether my career is worth sacrificing my personal life for."
The sharp edge of concern knifing through Sam's heart must have been evident on her face, because Janet reached out to caress Sam's cheek. "No, Sam, I'm not ready to throw everything away, and I'd never ask you to do that. I'm just saying that I am less concerned with future and intangible consequences than I am with being happy right now. But if you don't want "
Sam's response came in the form of placing a brief kiss to Janet's temple. "I do want," she clarified softly. "I just want to make sure we've really thought about this."
Janet laughed aloud at that. "No wonder you never go out on any dates. Thinking things out in advance is not precisely the stuff of romance novels."
Sam's laugh echoed Janet's. She opened her mouth to make a clever reply, but was forestalled as Janet's lips met hers. Unlike the earlier kiss, this one walked clearly over the line of friendship. Lips meshed together, tongues darted out to briefly explore, and arms looped tightly around bodies.
Sam's heart was pounding in her chest and her whole body was on fire. Something tugged at the back of her mind, even as she tightened her grip on Janet. Suddenly, with a gasp, Sam pulled away from the kiss.
She couldn't miss the hurt look Janet sent her. "Sam, what is it; did I do something wrong?"
Sam untangled herself from Janet, but grabbed tightly to the doctor's hand. Her eyes darted frantically around the living room.
Her voice sounded distant to her own ears as she absently reassured Janet, "No, you're fine. It's just that there's someone else here."
Janet reached out and physically turned Sam, forcing the blonde to meet her eyes. Her tone was brusque with anxiety. "What do you mean 'there's someone else here'?"
Sam swallowed hard, forcing herself to meet Janet's gaze, even though she felt other eyes watching them. "I mean there's someone else here, and it isn't Cassie."
Janet took hold of Sam's shoulders and shook her. Hard.
"Dammit, Sam, don't you do this to me. Don't freak out on me. Get yourself under controlyou're suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. There's no one else here."
Sam wrenched herself from out of the restraining hands. She grabbed Janet's wrists. "Listen to me, Janet. There's a Goa'uld here somewhere close by."
Sam felt the cold hand of fear pressing down on her, and she watched helpless as her fear translated to Janet.
The doctor's voice held an edge of panic as she tried to speak logically. "Sam, that's not possible. How could a Goa'uld get through the Stargate, then out of the SGC, and then find us here? And why? I mean, I trust your instincts, but "
Sam sat perfectly still for the span of a heartbeat, willing herself to stop sensing the presence of a Goa'uld. It didn't work. She still had the same feeling she had every time Teal'c and his larval Goa'uld were present, one of the "gifts" Jolinar had left her.
"Oh my God," Sam breathed as an awful thought occurred to her. "Janet, we never got out of virtual reality."
Their eyes met and the realization hit them both with its truth.
"I mean, if it really was Maybourne and his crew, we escaped too easily," began Sam.
"And there was no one monitoring our responses while we were in those machines "
"And it still doesn't feel like we've been missing for a month "
"And the way they found us was too much of a coincidence "
"And there's no reason to think mutant humans would be able to fight the Goa'uld any better than the rest of us; we've already done a lot of damage to them "
Janet had another observation on the tip of her tongue, when the world disappeared in a flash of light.
Sam's scream was torn from her involuntarily; she heard Janet cry out as well.
Blinking rapidly, Sam came back into the world, struggling to focus her eyes and her thoughts. She tried to lift a hand and found she was strapped tightly to a chair of sorts. She managed a glance to the side and saw Janet in a similar predicament. There was a metallic device haloing Janet's head, which appeared to be Goa'uld technology. From the feel of pressure on her own head, Sam concluded she also sported one.
Sam looked quickly around the room. White-coated technicians monitored various machines; guards stood near the door; and a man with glowing eyes that broadcast his species as well as his anger stood glowering over the two women.
He shot a warning look at Sam before stalking away to converse with a couple of the techs.
Sam took a closer look, relatively speaking, at the guards. "Janet," she blurted out, "that's SG-8."
Janet, too, examined them. "What the hell is going on here?"
As if in response to her question, the Goa'uld snapped out a series of commands. Techs came over to release Sam and Janet from their bonds, while the guards leveled their weapons at the very confused women.
Another series of order had the guards pulling Sam and Janet from their seats, roughly pushing them to follow in the Goa'uld's wake as he led them to a cell. Without ceremony, they were shoved into a rough-hewn cell with enough force to knock them both to the ground. The door was locked and Sam and Janet were left alone.
Sam was the first to rise, clambering to her feet and going to examine the door. She gave an experimental shove, and groaned as she managed to cause a nice bruise on her shoulder. She turned back to Janet, griping, "Ok, so the head wound was virtual but now I've dislocated my shoulder. This is not one of my better missions."
Janet rolled her eyes. "Sam, trust me. You didn't dislocate anything."
"A fine doctor you are. You haven't even examined me."
Janet chose to ignore that comment, instead observing. "So you remember we were on a mission?"
Sam stared at Janet and said with an air of surprise. "Yeah, I do. We had been doing a chemical analysis on an artifact that SG-8 found. They wanted us to go planet-side to do further study, and when we got there, there was no sign of SG-8 and then something hit me from behind "
Janet's voice brimmed with satisfaction. "I remember the same thing." She looked around their prison and then walked over to Sam, and her voice grew pensive. "But how do we know this isn't just another virtual setting?"
Sam put a light hand on Janet's shoulder, and said quietly, "We don't know for certain. But this makes a certain degree of sense that the other situations have lacked."
She was about to say more, when the Goa'uld slammed open the cell door. He strode in, with his guards close behind.
His voice echoed off the walls. "You will answer my questions. How did you know of my presence? You seemed unaware of me at other stages of this test; how did you know me and know you had not yet reached your home?"
Sam mouthed a barely audible, "Teal'c," to Janet.
Janet nodded, understanding all that Sam was not saying. She hadn't sensed his presence before, because he had worn the form of Teal'c; Sam had just assumed that her sensing of a Goa'uld was the Teal'c's larvae.
Sam threw out a statement, hoping to somehow distract their captor. "You aren't a regular system lord. You don't even have an army of your own."
The Goa'uld held up his hand, and Sam winced as she recognized the torture device. She fell hard to the ground as a wave of pain coursed through her.
Following the apparently universal code that seems to require villains to confide their plans to their captives, the Goa'uld spoke haughtily.
"You are fools. I have more power than you could dare contemplate. My powerful mind can make the puny minds of your species see things that are not real. I have been exiled from my people, spent decades away from the System Lords, plotting my revenge.
"They have been unable to conquer your planet with force. I will conquer it through illusion. And when I do what no other Goa'uld has done, when I conquer your world, I will take my long overdue place as one of the System Lords.
"These comrades of yours do not even see you; you are seen as alien while I am seen as their hero. You have been my final test, to watch you continue in illusion when you believed yourselves free of it."
Sam struggled to her feet, Janet's hand under her elbow.
"Give me the information I require and you will live a comfortable life as my prize prisoners. Refuse me " He let the threat lie unspoken.
Janet murmured in Sam's ear, "He's been in exile. He doesn't know. We can't tell him, can't let him know."
Sam shuddered, but nodded. He didn't know she had been Jolinar, didn't know she could sense a Goa'uld presence. And oddly enough, that lack of knowledge convinced her this was real. He thought she had beaten the illusion, and as long as he thought that, there was a chance that Earth could stay safe from him.
She shared a long look with Janet, seeing in the doctor's eyes the memory of their last experience with the torture device, seeing in Janet's sad gaze the knowledge that they were signing their own death warrant.
The Goa'uld was growing impatient. "Tell me," he commanded, and Sam shook her head.
The energy hit her, sending agony through every nerve in her body. She fought the pain as best she could, collapsing as he smiled and released her.
She shook her head, and a cry of torment ripped from her throat. The pain overwhelmed her and she wanted to tell him, wanted nothing more than for the pain to stop. But somewhere at the edge of the blaze that was her body, she heard a whisper, a soft voice calling her name, and she remembered Janet and tried to be strong for Janet, if for no one else.
The release from the pain was so sudden that Sam gasped with its absence. She found herself on her back, limbs trembling.
The Goa'uld smiled again, an utterly sadistic smile. "If you will not tell me for your own sake, perhaps you will tell me for hers."
And then Sam heard Janet cry out as the device was turned on her. The doctor collapsed, convulsing under the energy pulse and Sam felt the rage flush her body with a strength she didn't know she had.
She got to her hands and knees, waiting for the room to stop spinning, and watching helpless as Janet writhed in pain. Then Sam exploded onto her feet, launching herself at their torturer. He swung the device back on her, but by then she had knocked him off balance so that they tumbled to the floor in a messy heap.
She fought hard to get her hand up and wrest the device out of his grip. He fought her tooth and nail, and only sheer desperation gave her the upper hand. With an elbow to his neck, she got the leverage she needed to pry the device from his fingers.
She felt her shoulder pulled out of joint, but that pain was minorcomparatively speakingand without conscious thought, she pulled the device onto her own hand. It came to life and the Goa'uld released his hold on her with a sudden curse.
"You are primitives. The device should not work for you." His voice trembled with horror.
Sam held the device towards him, and the energy shot into his body and he cried out. She felt a surge of satisfaction as he collapsed, and then felt a surge of nausea that she would be capable of torturing someone.
She pulled her hand back, and jerked in surprise as gunshots sounded close to her ear. The Goa'uld's body twitched as round after round of ammunition hit him. Sam ducked instinctively until the shots ceased. She studied the Goa'uld for a moment, and realized he was dead. She then turned to see SG-8 behind her, with fury and bloodlust written across their features.
"That fucking bastard tricked us into thinking he was on our side."
Sam stared dazed at the men, and one turned sheepish eyes on her. "Honest, we didn't know it was you he was hurting. Had some damn illusion in place. Didn't see what was really happening until you turned that thing on him and he collapsed."
"Of course," Sam whispered to herself. "He lost his mental control."
Sam forced her thoughts back to the present. "It's ok," she reassured the soldiers automatically, not knowing if it was anything close to the truth.
Janet suddenly appeared at Sam's side, having crawled over on hands and knees. Janet reached out a trembling hand and held tightly to the back of Sam's shirt. Sam, for her part, grabbed hold of the doctor's pant leg.
Janet looked up at the cell door, where a set of shadows appeared. "Oh God, not again," she whispered, burying her head against Sam's back.
Sam couldn't resist a grim laugh as O'Neill and Teal'c stepped into the room.
"Something funny here, Carter?" O'Neill snapped.
Sam managed a shaky, "It's gonna be a hell of a de-briefing, Sir."
It had, indeed, been a hell of a de-briefing. Sam felt an unnerving sense of deja-vu as she and Janet ran through their stories for General Hammond and the members of SG-1.
The main thing that reminded Sam that this was not simply a repeat of an earlier performance was the setting. They were in one of the recovery rooms in the infirmary, since both Sam and Janet were confined to the infirmary for continued treatment of the physical after-effects of their torture.
In truth, Sam really didn't feel up to a de-briefing: she had managed to get quite a nice concussion during her fight with the Goa'uld, and both her head and her injured shoulder throbbed mercilessly. She spared a glance to the bed beside her and noted that Janet looked about as uninspired as she herself felt. It wasn't surprising, really, since the de-briefing had already been going on for more than an hour.
"I understand the reason you were not aware of the Goa'uld's presence, Major Carter, but I am still confused as to why he was unable to sense that you have been a host. Other Goa'uld's we've run across are able to sense that from you." General Hammond raised his eyebrows in a question mark as he spoke.
Sam chewed her lower lip, pondering an answer. She had been wondering the same thing, and had a theory, but the pounding of her head made it hard to really think things through. "Well, Sir, I'm not really sure. I mean, he was running two separate tests at the same time.
"The one on us was the virtual reality to see if we could separate reality from illusion. But he was also using the power of his mind to create an entirely different illusion for SG-8, to refine his own abilities in preparation for his plan to conquer Earth. The best answer I can come up with is that his mental abilities were limited by the energy needed to create the illusion SG-8 was caught in."
She glanced once again at Janet, this time looking for the doctor's reaction to her theory. Janet returned the gaze and gave a weak nod of the head in agreement. "Projecting an illusion on that scale would definitely have limited his ability to read you clearly."
Sam looked back at the General, and anticipating Hammond's next question, said, "And as for why we didn't fall under the same illusion as SG-8 well, he needed to know why we were able to realize we were in virtual reality. If he had simply manipulated our minds into his illusion, the responses he got to his questions might have been suspect because well they wouldn't have been reactions to the true situation."
Sam broke off as she realized in frustration that she simply could not clarify the subject any further. She gave an exasperated sigh and turned once again to look at Janet. The other woman sighed in response and Sam saw her own exhaustion mirrored on Janet's face.
The General noticed the fatigue in the shared glance and his voice grew softer than usual. "I am sorry to have put you both through this, but you've been missing for over a week and I needed to know what happened to you and SG-8. And given the initial reports of Colonel's team, I wasn't quite sure I should trust in the information given to us by SG-8."
Sam seized on two words of his sentence. "One week? That's all the time we've been gone?"
She stared hard at Janet, ignoring O'Neill's acerbic response.
The doctor sighed quietly and spoke in a low voice. "That sure feels about right."
"Doctor? Major?" Hammond's voice held just the barest hint of impatience.
Sam exhaled sharply, wincing as her headache protested. "Well, Sir, the time frame feels right. In the last de-briefing the um well virtual one when you when they said we'd been gone for a month, it just didn't feel right."
Janet's words sounded smooth and stubborn. "Sir, you have to remember that we are still not quite sure what exactly is real; this setting may be just another illusion."
There was an awkward pause while O'Neill and Daniel exchanged uncomfortable glances, and Hammond's brows knit in concerned lines.
Sam and Janet simply waited, both of them watching the others. Sam wanted to say more, but knew she didn't have the right words. And she knew that there was nothing anyone could say that would convince her entirely that this reality was real. She was 99% certain; but there was no way mere words could fill in that one little suspicious spot.
And then Teal'c's calm, simple words broke into the air. "You know that you are both real. Given time, you will come to realize this of us as well. Until that time, you will have to rely upon each other, as there is nothing we can offer in the way of proof or persuasion."
Sam felt a profound sense of relief, knowing that one of her teammates understood her inability to trust in her perceptions.
She smiled briefly at the Jaffa and he inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment.
Doctor Matthews chose that moment to enter the room and say casually, "Ok folks, this party is over. My patients need some rest and anything else is going to have to wait, unless it's a crucial matter along the lines of thermo-nuclear Armageddon." He fixed the General with a stern look. "I thought you were going to keep this short."
He was met by a stereo-glare from O'Neill and Hammond, and Sam bit back her smile as Matthews faced them obliviously. Sensitivity to emotions (not to mention protocol) was not one of the man's strong suits. She glanced over to see the ghost of a grin on Janet's lips.
Hammond broke the glare and conceded defeat. "We're actually done here," he announced. "I'll check in with you tomorrow and we'll tie up the loose ends."
He and the rest of SG-1 paused on their way out the door to tell the women how glad they were to have them home. Teal'c, oddly enough, was last in line.
"I do not believe they yet understand your position," he offered without preamble. "I will ensure that they realize the implications of your experience."
Before either woman could even formulate a response, he disappeared out the door.
Matthews clucked his tongue like a mother hen as he regarded his patients. "Should have kicked them out of here, Janet," he said in a mild tone. "You know neither one of you was ready for that."
Sam could hear the defensive note in Janet's voice. "What exactly should I have done? I'm not in a very convincing position here, and the information we gave them was fairly important."
Silence reigned as Matthews did brief exams of each woman, checked their IV units, and then walked over to the door.
He shot a measuring look at Janet. "I know you just wanted to get the de-briefing over with," he stated calmly, "but in my opinion, taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally is a little more important than strict adherence to military protocol.
"I'll bring in a phone shortly so you can call Cassie and talk to her for a while. She knows she'll have to wait to see you, and she understands, but I know you'll want to say hi. And then after that, doctor's orders, no visitors and no phone calls. You both need to get some rest; that torture device does some nasty work."
As he left, Sam turned to find Janet watching her with wide eyes. "Odd little lecture," the brunette breathed. "Seems to echo the shades of our last private conversation."
Sam nodded slightly, and then regretted it as her head began pounding more fiercely. "For what it's worth, I think his lecture was just coincidence, not another test. I really feel like we're back home this time." She reached up with her good arm and massaged her temple lightly.
Janet shrugged slightly and then sagged back against her pillows. "Well, like Teal'c said, we just have to rely on each other."
Sam let her arm drop back down and smiled at the words. She felt a wave of affection wash over her at the warmth in the brunette's beautiful eyes.
"You know, Janet, if I have to keep walking through this uncertainty, I'd rather do it with you than with anyone else."
Janet laughed aloud at that. "And you said I was sappy."
The re-arrival of Matthews with a cell phone stifled any retort Sam might have made.
Sam groaned as she practically fell onto Janet's couch. She lay back and set her feet on top of the coffee table. Sam didn't bother to look at the brunette, similarly situated on the other end of the couch as she closed her eyes and said, "This has been the longest week of my life."
Janet's voice hummed with exhaustion. "Possibly the longest one in the history of humankind."
Sam sighed deeply. "Maybe even the history of the universe."
Sam groaned again, mentally replaying the whole week. Janet had been released from the infirmary after two days, but Sam had remained captive for four days. There were seemingly endless medical tests to study the effects of the torture, including a visit by Martouf to use new Tok'ra technology in an attempt to speed the recovery of the women.
It had proven useless on non-blended humans, but Sam was pleased nonetheless because it had healed her concussion and her shoulder injury. Both women felt pretty much back to normal physically, but Matthews was still acting as if they were china plates.
And then there was de-briefing after de-briefing after de-briefing. Each time, there was a whole new set of faces, higher up in military command than the last set. Sam had grown extremely bored with repeating the same story over and over.
General Hammond had finally called an end to the madness earlier in the day, and had sent Sam and Janet on official leave for two weeks. He had also, at Teal'c's prompting, arranged for Teal'c, Daniel, and O'Neill to take leave at the same time and take Cassie on a camping trip. Janet had protested, but Cassie was eager to go.
The girl had been ecstatic at their homecoming, but she wasafter alla teenager. And one of the seemingly universal teen traits was to separate from parents at every opportunity. Janet had finally given in.
Before they left, Teal'c had taken a moment to speak to Sam and Janet. "Perhaps when we return, you will have had sufficient time and space to realize you have truly arrived home."
At their somewhat off-guard "thank you", he had inclined his head in acknowledgment and walked out the door.
Cassie had lingered to say--in her most grown-up voice, "Try to get some rest, and don't worry about stuff. I love you guys; see you in two weeks!" She had raced after Teal'c, leaving two very bemused women in her wake.
Sam wrenched her thoughts back to the present as she heard Janet offer a profound sigh. Sam opened her eyes to regard the doctor. Janet's eyes remained closed, and Sam noticed the fatigue lines on her face.
She wrestled herself into a sitting position, and pulled Janet's feet from the coffee table into her lap. The brunette opened one eye in surprise, then closed it again as Sam began kneading a sock-clad foot.
They sat in a comfortable silence, punctuated only by Janet's occasional soft sighs of pleasure. Sam smiled as she watched the other woman relaxing under her touch.
Finally Sam broke the silence open. "Um, Janet, can I ask you something?"
Janet forced one eye open, regarded Sam for a moment, and then opened both eyes. "You've got that serious look on your face again. What's up?"
Sam licked her lips. "There's something I've just got to know. If you don't think I make a good Wolverine, then who do you see me as?"
Janet sat up straight on the couch, her brown eyes sparkling with amusement. Laughing, she managed to spit out, "You're still thinking about that?"
Her laughter proved infectious, and Sam found herself hit with a serious case of the giggles. She tried to speak, but only laughed harder.
Janet wiped her eyes on her shirtsleeve, and then reached out to pat Sam's shoulder clumsily. "Oh hon, I think we definitely needed that."
Sam nodded, wiping her own eyes, and Janet scooted closer to the blonde, until she was practically sitting in Sam's lap.
Janet reached out a hand and cupped Sam's cheek, stroking gently. Her tone was sincere, though her eyes still twinkled merrily. "You would make a good Professor. Calm, confident, and way too smart for his own good."
Sam stared into Janet's eyes, suddenly finding that it was very hard to breathe. Her heart pounded wildly in her rib cage at the closeness of the other woman, and she said the first thing that came into her head, trying to distance herself somehow from her reactions.
"Wouldn't that kind of mess up your neat little love triangle?"
Janet laughed again, but this time the sound was low and husky, and Sam exhaled quickly at the seductive sound. "Yeah, but that's ok. I was going to drop Cyclops and Wolverine anyway don't have much in common with either of them."
Sam chuckled and ran her hand lightly across Janet's shoulder blade. The doctor leaned in and kissed the tip of Sam's nose, then dropped down to press against her lips. Sam brought her hand up to the back of Janet's neck, and held the doctor close as they kissed, picking up where they'd left off before.
After a moment, Sam broke away and breathed, "Nice."
Janet let her hand trail from Sam's cheek down her neck, coming to rest in the hollow of the blonde's throat. "Very nice," she whispered.
Sam stroked Janet's neck as she asked quietly, "Are we really ready to do this? Are we ready to risk this going any farther?"
Janet sighed and fanned her fingers against Sam's chest. "Sam, you are the only thing I know for sure is real. You are the only thing I can hold onto, and right now that's a lot more important to me than anything else.
"We've been through hell together; I think we deserve a little piece of heaven."
Sam didn't bother to answer with words. She captured Janet's lips with her own, her kiss hungry and eager. Janet's mouth opened beneath hers, and Sam responded in kind. She felt the tentative push of Janet's tongue into her mouth.
Lips and tongues danced together in a blaze of desire. Sam let her hands circle around Janet's small frame, stroking the small of the brunette's back before sliding lower to caress gentle curves. Janet's hands dropped lower on Sam's chest, finding the swell of aroused breasts through the blonde's sweatshirt.
Sam groaned through the kiss as Janet's hands knowingly teased hardened nipples, and she brought her own hands around to slide along the plane of Janet's stomach. Janet gasped in pleasure and Sam's lips tightened against her mouth.
And then Janet broke the kiss, her breath coming hard. "Bedroom?" she panted.
Sam could see the burn of arousal in the brown eyes and she shivered at the intensity of the desire pulsing in her own veins. Not able to speak, Sam simply nodded, and in one quick motion, Janet rose gracefully to her feet and pulled Sam with her.
Sam kept hold of Janet's hand as she followed the shorter woman, and in the doorway leading out of the living room, she paused and pulled Janet back to her, kissing her again. Janet put her arms around Sam and walked backwards, still locked in the kiss, bringing Sam with her.
It wasn't the graceful scene depicted in movies; Janet bumped into the hallway wall more than once, and when they stumbled into Janet's room, Sam somehow ended up banging her arm hard against the dresser. But neither woman cared, their awareness focused on the passion binding them together.
At the foot of the bed, Janet pulled her mouth away and pushed Sam back, her eyes sliding over Sam's form. Sam stood still, embarrassed by the scrutiny, and then Janet reached out and tugged at the bottom of Sam's sweatshirt. Sam started to take the garment off, but Janet swatted her hands away.
Janet's voice throbbed with arousal. "Don't. I want to do it."
Sam swallowed hard as Janet began peeling her shirt off. The doctor's movements were slow and Sam could feel every nerve ending burn where Janet's fingers came in contact with her body. The shirt was pulled over Sam's head and then Janet's fingers dropped to the front of Sam's jeans, and she slowly, teasingly, stripped Sam out of her pants.
Sam shivered with a sudden sense of vulnerability as she stood in bra and underwear in front of Janet. Janet looked up into her eyes, and kissed her softly.
"God, Sam. You're incredible."
And then Janet's hands came up, teasing Sam's breasts through the thin material of her bra. Sam groaned low in her throat at the sure touch of the doctor, and then in one smooth motion, her breasts were exposed. Janet's tongue darted out to paint each hard nipple, and then she let her attention wander down to the last piece of clothing covering Sam's body.
Sam felt her knees go weak as Janet stroked lightly against the thin barrier of her underwear, her body overwhelmed by just how good Janet's touch felt. And then Janet stripped her out of the material, leaving Sam completely breathless with the erotic combination of desire and vulnerability.
"It's been a long time since you've been with someone, hasn't it, Sam?"
The blonde swallowed hard and simply nodded, suddenly embarrassed.
Janet kissed her again, and whispered, "No reason to be embarrassed. I feel pretty special that you trust me enough to be with me. I'll take good care of you."
She pulled away from Sam, pushing Sam down to sit on the bed. Sam watched in awe as Janet removed her own clothes, amazed that this wonderful woman wanted to be with her, amazed at the way Janet was taking the lead. Sam was a take-charge officer, but she had always been fairly shy when it came to love, and Janet seemed to know that instinctively.
And then Janet stood naked before Sam, her eyes flashing with heat. Sam reached out a trembling hand to lightly dust the pale skin of Janet's stomach. "Oh, Janet," she breathed, "You are so beautiful."
Sam wanted to say more, but then Janet walked over to the bed and crawled into the middle of it, reaching out to pull Sam close to her. Janet pushed Sam back, until Sam was lying with her head cradled in the pillows. Janet hovered over Sam, leaning her head down to kiss Sam.
Their mouths meshed together and hands reached out in exploration. Nerve endings blazed with fire at the feel of skin on skin.
And then Janet moved her mouth away from Sam's, trailing her lips down Sam's throat, her tongue flickering out against Sam's tender flesh. Sam gasped, "Janet?"
Janet sent one hand to rest possessively on Sam's stomach. "Trust me, Sam."
Sam nodded and then lost herself in sensation as Janet's mouth moved lower to create wet pathways across her breasts. Lips and tongue teased, and Sam felt her body tensing with need. Janet's teeth lightly nipped at the hard tip of one breast, and Sam gave an aroused groan.
She tangled one hand in Janet's hair, and reached up with the other to clutch tightly at one of the pillows under her head. Janet bit down again, harder this time, one hand bracing her weight as she hovered over Sam's body, the other dancing lower and lower on Sam's abdomen.
Sam arched her back as Janet's mouth worked magic on her body. Janet's mouth followed the path traced by her fingers, and then she shifted position. Janet gently pushed Sam's legs apart, settling herself between the spread thighs. Sam briefly stiffened with tension, momentarily scared of the intimacy, but then she relaxed when Janet turned concerned eyes on her.
Sam saw understanding in Janet's reassuring smile, and Janet's touch was impossibly gentle as she reached out with a single finger to trace the folds of Sam's most intimate flesh.
Sam's breath came in quick gasps, as the doctor's touch grew bolder. Her whole body throbbed with desire as Janet bent down, her tongue searching for the center of Sam's arousal, her fingers sliding softly into Sam's wet depths.
Sam writhed under the exquisite touch, absently aware that she had never felt this way with anyone before. Just the feel of Janet's breath against her hot flesh was producing sensations that Sam had never known existed.
And then Sam arched and cried out as Janet sent her over the cliff edge into a sea of pleasure. She floated for perhaps an eternity, aware only of the thrilling waves washing through her.
She came down from the high slowly, to find Janet lying beside her, a satisfied glow on the other woman's face. Sam's limbs felt like they were made out of rubber, but she managed to turn and catch Janet in a passionate kiss.
Sam could hear the quaver of emotion as she spoke. "God, Janet, that was incredible."
The doctor's voice was tender, but dripped amusement. "Like that, did you?"
Sam kissed her again. "You know I did." She paused to search for words. "No one has ever touched me like that before, and I don't just mean physically. I've never been so open with anyone else."
Janet smoothed sweat soaked hair off of Sam's forehead. "I know just what you mean. I'm not usually so bold, but " She let her words blend into the warmth of Sam's mouth. "I wanted to show you how much I care about you "
Sam turned neatly, pressing Janet underneath her own body, letting her hand walk down the front of Janet's body. "I want to show you the same thing," she offered in a whisper, "but I've never been with a woman before "
Janet cut her off. "Don't worry, it'll be fun to teach you."
They both giggled, and then Sam followed Janet's earlier lead, beginning to kiss her way down Janet's body, feeling her own excitement grow as she felt Janet's body respond to her touch. Sam lightly kissed each of Janet's hard nipples, and then looked up to meet the other woman's eyes.
"You know, Jan, I don't even care if we've made it back to our own reality, as long as I get to spend the next two weeks alone with you."
Janet reached down to ruffle blonde hair. "I appreciate the sentiment, hon, but you're getting way too sappy on me."
Any further criticism was lost in a pleased gasp as Sam bit down lightly on a tender spot.
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