She could still smell her...hear her laughter...taste her on her tongue, feel her writhe beneath her...but these were just memories now, nothing more. Her lover was gone, and she was hopelessly lost.
P3X-666. Four days ago.
Dr. Janet Fraiser crouched beside Airman Wells. Daniel Jackson was already kneeling before the injured man holding pressure on the profusely bleeding wound. The doctor quickly assessed his injuries and she and Daniel exchanged concerned looks. His injuries were severe and she hoped to get him stabilized for the return trip through the Stargate. She chanced a cursory glance around them and it occurred to the experienced healer that it would be difficult to cover the necessary ground to reach the gate, let alone make the jump, without getting killed.
She turned her attention back to her patient and noticed the bandage was already drenched in bright red blood. Steady hands applied more pressure over the soiled field dressing. Wells was speaking to her, but she couldn't understand him above the noise of weapon's fire and the screams for help.
Suddenly a tremendous impact hit the tiny doctor square in her chest making each ragged breath painful and difficult. She looked down and saw a large bloody semi-cauterized wound. Her knees buckled and she fell on her back to land beside her patient. The terror reflected in the young man's eyes surely mirrored her own fear.
A shadow hovered over her blocking out the intense rays of the afternoon sun. Paralyzed with fear, Daniel merely stared unbelievingly at the scene as it unfolded before his very eyes. A soft groan snapped his reverie and he grasped the doctor's small hand. It was already limp and too cold to the touch.
"No! Oh, God!" He screamed. "Fraiser's down!" His voice drowned in the sea of chaos swirling around them.
Brown eyes opened, but the dazed expression looked through the distraught archaeologist. She attempted to speak, but all she managed was an unintelligible croak. Cold fingers wrapped around his hand as he was pulled to her. She licked her dry lips and concentrated on one word.
The herculean effort sapped her waning strength and her fingers slowly relaxed in his palm.
She felt her life slipping away. Tingling fingers and toes were replaced by numbing emptiness. Janet knew she was dying and her last thought was of Sam and Cassie and how much she loved them. Surprisingly, the wounded woman felt a calm settle about her and she closed her eyes.
Earth. Two days ago.
Janet's kitchen was once a place of joyful gathering; where family and friends could sit for hours enjoying good food, good conversation, and good company. Today the same kitchen held a different sort of gathering. The customary dinner was served directly after the funeral. The company was unchanged, but the family was irrevocably broken.
Sam needed to grieve alone. The party, if it could be called such, ended hours ago, but Jack and Daniel had stayed behind. Teal'c had returned to the base earlier and Cassie was asleep upstairs after adamantly refusing to spend the night with the Hammond family.
O'Neill stood in the kitchen doorway watching one of his best friends try to drink herself into oblivion. He leaned across the table to grab the whiskey bottle away from Sam's grasp. "I think you've had enough, Carter."
She quickly pulled away and jumped up, sending her chair tumbling to the floor behind her. Daniel ran into the room upon hearing the crash. They watched as the inebriated woman swayed and then straightened her back as if to prove she was still in control.
She gently cradled the bottle in both hands to her chest. The tears stopped streaming down her face and her eyes smoldered with liquid hate. "Who the FUCK do you think you are?" She took a swig of the bronze liquid just to piss him off. "I haven't had near enough to numb the pain."
She bent over to pick up the chair and swayed with the sudden movement. Her gaze never wavered from the colonel's as she righted the chair and then awkwardly slumped her tired body to the seat and slammed the whiskey bottle on the table with a resounding thud and splash.
O'Neill momentarily averted his sad eyes and looked to Daniel, silently begging him for help. Daniel had removed his glasses and ran his trembling hands to wipe his tearstained face. No hope for help on that front. O'Neill chanced a quick glance back to his 2IC and the revulsion reflected in her piercing blue eyes made his blood run cold.
She was so tired. She had not slept in days.... not since returning from P3X-666. Not since Janet was declared KIA. Not since the sham of a funeral. Janet was not dead. Why wouldn't anyone listen to her? She tried to talk the colonel into mounting a rescue mission, and when that failed, she begged General Hammond. Even her own father refused to help her.
The burning question was why? Why did they all refuse to believe Janet was still alive? Hammond was not there, he could only go on what Colonel O'Neill reported to him. So the question was why would O'Neill not want to save Janet?
Her shoulders slumped and her head gradually came to rest on her left forearm. She was too tired and too drunk to think straight. Her eyes closed and her last thought ran over and over in her head like a bad movie until the question morphed from 'Why would O'Neill not want to save Janet?' to 'Why would O'Neill want Janet dead?'
The alcohol finally slowed Sam down and O'Neill took advantage of the opportunity to try to get the bottle away from her and move her to the couch where she could rest comfortably. The older man knelt bedside Sam's chair and laid his hand on her knee.
"Sam." The sound of her first name felt odd even to him and he grimaced waiting for the blonde woman to berate him for his brazen familiarity. When it wasn't forthcoming, he quietly continued. "You need to get some sleep. Janet would've wanted you to take care of yourself."
She barely registered his slip of the tongue since she had fallen into a hazy state of light sleep mixed with a faraway cognizance of her surroundings. She had been dreaming...dreaming that O'Neill wanted Janet dead.
Finally alerted to his physical proximity, Sam's eyes snapped open and she fought a wave of nausea as she glared accusatorily at her commanding officer. She slapped his hand away and stood screaming in his face. "Why wouldn't you let me go back and save Janet? She is NOT dead. Janet is not dead."
She began to pace the floor, incoherently mumbling to herself and every time she passed O'Neill she would point her finger in his direction and scream at him. "Janet is not dead." She would then resume her pacing like a caged wild animal.
Daniel hugged himself as silent tears rolled down his face. "Jack, we have to do something."
The raspy whisper snapped Sam back to the present and she acknowledged Daniel for the first time that night.
"He already has." The slur was gone from her speech...her voice clear and biting. "Haven't you, Jack?" His named dripped off her tongue with venom.
So she had heard him use her first name after all.
Clearly confused, O'Neill glanced from Sam to Daniel, then back again to the grief-stricken woman.
"Don't look so damn innocent. You think with Janet gone you'd have a chance with me?"
Sam stood face to face with him. "With Janet out of the way, you thought you would just slip in and save the little woman with your manhood?" She accused.
"That's the booze talking," he snapped.
"No, this is ME talking. I've seen how you look at me when you think nobody is watching."
She staggered back a step. The alcohol began to reaffirm its hold on the major after the brief respite from the angry adrenaline surge moments earlier. "Why wouldn't you let me go back and search for Janet?"
"Carter, please...stop torturing yourself. You know we tried to go back, but the gate was heavily guarded." He placed his shaking hands on both her shoulders and looked her in the eye. "We tried...I tried, but it wasn't worth it to risk others to bring back a dead body." He clenched his jaw and waited for her angry response.
She easily shrugged her shoulders and his hands fell to his side. "But it was worth the risk when she was needed, wasn't it Colonel?"
"That was her job, Major." He sighed in frustration and massaged his temples. "We were all at risk out there. She knew it...we all knew it."
"But you made it back...alive," she accused.
He recoiled as if she had cold-cocked him with her P90. "What's that supposed to mean?" He demanded.
They stood nose to nose, breathing each other's exhaled air, neither of them backing down.
Daniel tried to step between them. "Please, don't do this," he begged as he physically placed his body in the war zone. "Stop before something is said that can't be blamed on too much alcohol and hurt feelings."
O'Neill stepped away and turned his back on both his friends. He needed to distance himself so they didn't see him wipe at the tears that threatened to fall from his bloodshot eyes.
"Do you really believe I am capable of such a heinous act?" He directed his question to the wall, terrified of turning and seeing the look of pure hate he felt slicing through his back and straight to his broken heart.
"What ever happened to 'We don't leave our people behind'?" She shouted.
With head bowed, he turned to face his accuser. "You think I left Janet on that god forsaken planet, because...what? Carter, help me out here...because I'm having a really hard time understanding exactly what you're trying to say."
"Then let me use little words so even the moron can understand," she spat.
"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Daniel shouted and threw his arms wildly in the air. "I am sick and tired of listening to you two fight."
Now the archaeologist did step between his quarreling friends. He faced the woman who had helped him so many times in the past resolve his feelings for his dead wife. He really didn't know if he could have survived the devastation if he hadn't had good friends like Sam and Jack.
"You need to go upstairs and get some sleep and sober up. We'll talk more in the morning when everyone has had a chance to cool down." Daniel stated.
Sam walked away from him while he was still speaking. "Things," she gesticulated between she and Jack, "will never cool down."
She sighed deeply and turned her back. "Nothing will ever be the same. Janet is gone and the best part of me is gone with her." She didn't give a damn if that statement outed her. What more could they do to her that Janet's absence hadn't already done?
Daniel ignored her confession and pleaded with her, "You can't think like that. What about Cassie? She needs you now more than ever."
"Cassie is none of your damn business," the blonde spat.
Before he could respond, Jack interjected, "You're wrong, Carter. She is our business. We're all family here, and when one is hurting, we all hurt." He ran his hands through his graying hair. "You aren't the only one who lost a friend." It needed to be said, harsh as it sounded.
"A friend?" A maniacal laugh escaped her pursed lips. "She was much more than that to me!" She was screaming again. "Janet was my LOVER...my LIFE!" Now her secret was totally out in the open, no room for interpretation.
Red faced, he shouted back at her, "You know I didn't mean it like that, Carter. Just because we never talked about it openly doesn't mean we all didn't know about you and Janet."
The pesky little 'Don't ask, Don't Tell' made sure he could never acknowledge the women's relationship without getting them into trouble. He doubted General Hammond would court-martial them or transfer one of them out of the SGC, but there was always the possibility and he could not take the risk.
"Janet was my friend, too." O'Neill swallowed hard as a single teardrop slowly rolled down his cheek. He didn't bother to wipe it away.
Sam watched the wet trail as the watery bead tumbled down his cheek to splash on the collar of his shirt. She turned her blurry gaze to Daniel and watched as he too cried silent tears for the loss of his friend.
She knew she was being foolish, of course they were hurting, but she could not bring herself to admit it just yet. She was too damned blinded by grief and booze to think clearly or to forgive Jack O'Neill for his part in the debacle. She still blamed him for not watching Janet's back. She still blamed him for getting shot and therefore making it impossible to be by Janet's side when she was hit. She still blamed him for leaving her behind. It was all his fault and she would never forgive him.
Each thought fueled the existing fire of rage and alcohol burning in her gut until flames spewed forth in the form of dangerous accusations. "It's all your fault...Janet is gone because of you."
"How could you possibly think that, Carter?" He then continued in softer tone. "I loved Janet like a sister, a pain in the ass sister, but I loved her anyway."
Sam snorted. "And how do you love me, Colonel...like a sister?" She closed the distance with mere millimeters between their bodies.
All the color drained from his face and he faltered with a response.
"That's what I thought." She sneered. "Get the fuck outa my house." Sam dismissed the men without a second glance and staggered up the stairs to the empty bedroom she had shared with Janet for seven years.
Both men watched as she awkwardly navigated the steps and finally disappeared from their line of vision.
Daniel placed his right hand on Jack's shoulder in support. "She doesn't mean it, Jack. She is distraught and drunk."
"She means it," he responded in a flat tone, "and I agree with her." He walked into the living room and slumped onto the sofa.
"Jesus, not you, too. It's not your fault...it's not anyone's fault, Jack." He sat next to his friend. "Janet died doing what she believed in. Don't take that away from her...don't cheapen her sacrifice."
"You know what bugs me the most? What if Carter's right? What if Janet somehow managed to survive the blast?" He hunched over to rest his elbows on his knees and cradled his head in shaking hands. "What if we left her behind?" His voice was no more than a ghost of a whisper as images of the petite doctor in agony, dying all alone raced through his mind.
"You don't really think that, do you?"
"I don't know what to think anymore, Daniel."
They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, until Daniel's stomached rumbled. "I'm gonna check out the fridge and see if there is anything leftover from the reception."
A slight nod of Jack's head was the only response. A few minutes later, he found himself standing in the kitchen doorway without any knowledge of how he got there. He spied the table where Daniel had spread most of the leftovers. Daniel motioned for him to take a seat and put a bottle of beer in front of him.
Jack raised his eyebrows and smirked, "How'd she miss this?"
"She left the beer, went directly to the hard stuff," Daniel chuckled.
"That's my girl." He winced as he blushed crimson red.
Jack brought the beer bottle to his lips and took a huge gulp and then wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He would not look Daniel in the eye.
"Jack? What are you thinking?" He knew Jack was in love with Sam, he had confessed his feelings a long time ago just as Sam and Janet had shared their relationship with him. Military policy did not pertain to the young civilian archaeologist and both women felt safe confiding in their friend.
"God help me, but I couldn't stop thinking now that Carter was alone I might have a shot with her." He drained the remaining contents of the bottle of beer. "What does that make me?"
"It makes you human, Jack. It doesn't mean you wished for Janet's death."
Jack twisted off the cap of another bottle and drank it without taking a breath. "They made a great couple, don'tcha think?"
"Yeah, they were perfect." The smile that graced Daniel's face was the first genuine smile he had shared with anyone since witnessing Janet's death.
"I only wanted Carter to be happy, ya know? And if Janet made her happy... then so be it." A small frown contoured his face. "She only had eyes for the Doc anyway. That will never change and I don't want it to change, but I still want her to be my friend."
"Sam will be different in the morning. We both know the booze loosened her tongue. She's better than that. She needs to grieve and she needs her friends now more than ever."
"I hope you're right, Daniel."
They ate their late night snack and over the next hour traded stories about Dr. Janet Fraiser, each one more outrageous than the next. Once the food was eaten and the table cleared, Daniel asked, "You want the sofa or the chair?"
"You know she kicked us outa here. We really should leave before she wakes up and wants to kick something else." He tilted his head in thought. "I'll take the chair, you can have the sofa."
Sam tossed and turned in a restless sleep. She slowly opened her eyes to find herself back on P3X-666 standing among the carnage of the fierce firefight fought days before. She gagged as the sights, sounds, and smells of the massacre assaulted her senses. The landscape shifted around her and panned 360 degrees providing an eerie slow-motion panoramic view of the entire area as automatic weapons fire and staff weapon blasts deafened the shouts and screams of soldiers desperately fighting for control. Suddenly, just as before, she found herself kneeling at an injured O'Neill's side and helplessly watched Janet as she was struck by a staff weapon blast full-force in the chest. Watched as she fell...motionless. Lifeless.
Her vision then fractured into repeated images of a charred Janet lying on her right side as she beckoned with an outstretched bloody arm across the expanse of dead and dying Jaffa and SGC soldiers...reaching desperately for the major to save her. Over and over, the doctor fell and then motioned to Sam. In her dream state, the blonde slowly floated closer and closer until she was within arm's length of her lover, but just as she thought she would grasp her fingers, she was somehow transported back to her original starting place across the killing fields littered with sights and sounds of pleading and crying from the men and women lying all alone, dying on an alien world so far from home.
Sam whimpered in her fitful slumber, "No, no."
"Sshh, Sam." A warm hand affectionately caressed the distraught woman's left cheek, and then pressed her open palm to her damp forehead.
A warm tingling jolt hit the sleeping woman and she momentarily opened her eyes to see an indistinguishable figure of an older woman standing over her.
"Rest easy now, Sam. We'll meet again." She smiled down at the younger woman and glanced to the empty side of the big bed. Her smile widened as she looked at the framed photograph resting on the pillow.
The woman's gentle touch immediately put Sam at ease. "Okay," she whispered and then fell into a dreamless sleep.
The older woman held the picture and ran her fingers over the image of Sam hugging Janet from behind with her left arm wrapped possessively over Janet's left shoulder. After a quiet moment, she returned the picture back to its resting place. With one last look at the peacefully slumbering blonde, she slowly turned and faded from existence.
She slowly regained consciousness to a subtle shaking of her shoulder.
"Sam, please wake up," a tiny voice whispered in her ear as she pushed blonde bangs from her forehead.
She unconsciously reached for the small hand on her forehead and blinked blurry eyes swollen by too many tears. A hazy figure of a woman came into focus. "We meet again," she mumbled through dry lips.
The shaking became more insistent. "Come on, Sam. You're scaring me," she pleaded.
Sam blinked once more and this time her vision cleared. "Cassie?"
The younger woman nodded her head. "Yeah, you okay?" She asked in a small voice, filled with relief. "I couldn't get you awake." Her eyes brimmed with tears and a soft sob escaped her throat. "I thought you were dead." The tears flowed freely with her admission.
"Oh God, Cass," Sam immediately wrapped the teen in her arms and pulled her into bed. "I'm not going anywhere. I promise." She kissed her brow and cooed softly as she would to soothe a young child.
"I miss her so much." Cassie cried into Sam's warm shoulder.
"I know, sweetheart. I miss her, too." Sam thought she couldn't possibly have any more tears to shed, but as the steady salty drops streamed down her face, she knew she was wrong.
They held each other until the tears stopped flowing and their synchronized, slow even breathing filled the bedroom.
The next morning Jack and Daniel sat at the kitchen table while Teal'c rummaged through the refrigerator. He loaded his muscular arms with eggs, bacon, milk, and butter.
"Are you feeling better this morning, Teal'c?" Daniel asked the large man.
"I am, DanielJackson."
"Don't even pretend to know what you're doing, T." O'Neill's acerbic remark reverberated throughout the room.
Teal'c took his turn like the rest of SG-1, but cooking around a makeshift campfire was a bit different than cooking in a fully stocked kitchen.
Jack stood from his chair only to be halted by Daniel's firm grasp on his forearm and a slight shake of his sandy hair. The archaeologist leaned into him and whispered, "He needs to do this."
O'Neill raised his eyebrows and returned to his seat. His gazed followed Teal'c as he chose a frying pan and began to crack eggs...with one hand.
"Dr. Fraiser gave me cooking lessons. She said I was a quick learner." His half-smile illuminated his dark face. "She demonstrated more patience than Master Bratac ever did."
"Then, by all means, dazzle us with your cooking abilities, T."
O'Neill glanced to the doorway for the tenth time in as many minutes, hoping Cassie had had success in rousting Carter, but thirty minutes had passed since the teen went upstairs and she was still a no-show. "She's still pissed. If she hasn't come down yet, she's not coming at all."
A huge sigh escaped Daniel's lips. "I'm going to check on them."
He quietly climbed the stairs and walked to the end of the long hallway to stand in front of Sam and Janet's bedroom door. He eased the door open and slowly peeked through the crack. Cassie was snuggled next to Sam and they both were covered with a deep blue comforter that accentuated the other colors of the room, from the deep lush carpet to the billowing curtains hanging from ceiling to floor. Janet's touch to be sure, Sam wasn't much into decorating.
Not having the heart to disturb the women, he unobtrusively observed them draw strength from each other and begin the healing process. An act Cassie was all too familiar with since Janet was the second mother to die during the teen's young life. Daniel hoped she would survive this recent loss as she had when the then young child was transplanted here after her home world was devastated by an experimental Goa'uld plague. Janet had helped her through that very difficult time, first as a concerned physician and then as a loving mother. Sam had big shoes to fill, and Daniel prayed she was up to the challenge. He quietly closed the door and returned downstairs.
The archaeologist solemnly strode into the kitchen. "They're both asleep and I don't think we should bother them." He bowed his head and rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand. "Maybe we should finish breakfast and just go."
"Do you think that wise, DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked.
He removed his glasses and wiped them on his t-shirt before returning them to his face. He briefly glanced to the large man sitting across the table and shrugged tired shoulders. He then turned his attention to Jack. "What do you think?"
"I think Carter probably doesn't want to see anybody right now, especially me. So...yeah, I think it's a good call." He ran his hands through his short hair. "We'll take the rest of the booze with us so she can't repeat last night's performance, and I doubt she'll feel like going out for more. Besides, she won't drink in front of Cassie."
"You can't distance yourself from Sam right now," Daniel pleaded with the stubborn colonel. O'Neill was determined to shoulder the burden.
"I know that," Jack snapped. He shrugged his shoulders in apology. "I just...don't know what to do." He turned a sharp eye to the younger man and demanded, "Do you?"
Daniel shook his head in defeat.
The colonel was a man of action and he wasn't used to feeling so helpless. It left a bad taste in his mouth. "Cass's here and she'll call if they need us." He waved his hands in the air. "We'll leave a note or something."
Even though all three men had survived the loss of a loved one, they didn't know exactly how to go about helping their teammate...that was Janet's specialty. Each man had offered silent support and when that approach didn't work, Jack had bullied on and hit Sam head to head with harsh realities that needed to be put out in the open. Needless to say, the drunken major was not receptive to that tactic...thus the awkward stalemate.
"Okay," Daniel acquiesced.
"Agreed." Teal'c stood, statuesque, with arms clasped behind his back.
With the decision made, they quickly and quietly put the leftovers away and cleaned the kitchen spotless. The only tale tell mark that anyone had been there was the note left on the table outlining their plans to crash at O'Neill's and to call if the women needed anything.
Sam awoke to warm breath tickling her neck and her heart rate accelerated as she ran her fingers through the sandy blonde hair fanned over her left chest and shoulder. She sighed in relief when she realized her nightmare was not true...Janet was here at her side where she belonged. She reveled in the silky smooth texture of the shoulder length hair and bent her head to inhale the sweet fragrance of her lover before placing a kiss on the soft curls.
Something was different. The smell was wrong. The color was wrong. Janet had had many different hair colors, but blonde was never one of them. Sam's perfect world came crashing down as the memory of the past several days destroyed her once again. She barely contained a sob as the realization hit her full-force like a sledgehammer to the chest. She scooted out from under Cassie, careful not to wake the sleeping teen, and fled to the bathroom where she could fall apart without her captive audience.
Soft sobs racked her slim body once the door closed to the outside world. Alone, Sam grieved for her lost love. Unsteady legs wobbled and then collapsed as the slim body slid down the bathroom wall to land in a graceless heap of misery and despair. She honestly could not remember a time when she felt so utterly alone, not even the death of her mother had affected the major so deeply. Janet represented everything good in her life; she was her lover, best friend, confidant, and nurturer all rolled into one perfect little package.
Breathing became difficult as a heavy weight descended upon her aching chest and an invisible force bore through her sternum and viciously squeezed an already bleeding heart. She drew her knees to a trembling chest and wrapped her arms around them and rocked back and forth to soothe her dying soul.
She didn't know how long she had been on the floor, but her uncomfortable position told her it had been more than a few minutes. The cold tile seeped into her already numb bones and she hauled her weary body off the floor to lean over the sink. She splashed cold water over her face and stared into the mirror, mesmerized as the haunted reflection returned her vacant gaze. Sam watched as hot tears mixed with cold water streaked down her cheeks and dripped onto the fine white porcelain. Each drop fell louder than the first, building in intensity and grating over raw nerves, until the cacophony reached a deafening crescendo. With each drop another emotion lay bare and ripped from her being.
How had it come to this? Why had she been so quick to rollover and hide like a wounded animal? Bile burned the back of her throat and she spat the rancid taste in the sink. Dry heaves racked her body as she expelled all her demons. After the nausea passed, she once again splashed cold water over her face. Now the tears slowed and the drops changed in pitch to the ticking of a clock as time slowed to a crawl.
In a moment of total clarity, Sam knew it was time to get off her ass and do something. Her thin lips stretched across white teeth in a predatory grin. She dared her reflection, or anyone else for that matter, to get in her way.
She just needed a plan.
A soft knocking brought her back to the present. "Sam? You okay?" Cassie's muffled voice crossed the wooden barrier.
"I'm good, Cass." For the first time in three days she hadn't answered with a lie. "Why don't you order takeout while I shower?"
"Okay. What do you want?"
It's amazing how an attitude adjustment could change Sam's inner being, but now that she had decided to act on Janet's abduction she felt relaxed, rested, and more than a little hungry. The smells of the Chinese takeout wafted upstairs and assaulted her senses until her mouth watered at the prospect of eating a relatively decent meal.
Sam's new mood was infectious and the two women traded light banter while sharing food from each other's plate. Cassie wanted to take advantage of the situation and ask a few questions that were bothering her more than she would like to admit, but didn't know how to broach the subject without upsetting Sam. She pushed her fried rice around her plate with chop sticks making a fortress and poured the remaining sweet and sour sauce around the base to form an impenetrable moat.
"You gonna eat that or just play architect?" Blue eyes sparkled as she teased the eighteen year old.
A slow smile spread across the teenager's face. Now or never, the time never seemed to be right, but she needed to know. "Why do you think mom is still alive?"
Sam sucked in a cleansing breath and deeply sighed. She knew her daughter was trying to be brave in Janet's absence and held many bottled-up emotions, but she was taken back by the directness of the pointed question.
"I don't know how to explain it, Cass. I just know. At first I thought she was gone, but now I can feel her here." She placed her hand over her heart. "She's a part of me and I would know if she were gone."
Cassie frowned. "Is that why you won't tell grandma what happened?"
"I can't lie to Janet's mother." The blonde got up from the sofa and began to pace the length of the living room. "What am I supposed to say, 'Sorry Mrs. Fraiser, Janet is dead'? I can't give her closure without..." she hesitated before continuing, "without a body."
When the pacing brought the distraught woman within Cassie's reach, the younger woman grabbed her arm and pulled her onto the sofa to sit beside her. "I understand, I really do, but do you think that's fair to grandma? What if she calls and wants to talk to mom?"
Oh yeah, she was definitely Janet's daughter, ever the pragmatist.
"I told her Janet was out of the country on Air Force business with the CDC."
Twin eyebrows climbed high on the teen's forehead and disappeared under sandy blonde curls.
Sam chewed on her right thumbnail. "Okay, so I've already lied to her, but it's better than telling her Janet died when I know that's NOT what happened." She vehemently stood behind her decision.
"What do we do now?" Cassie knew Sam was capable of just about anything once she put that super brain into action.
Hell, she'd saved the world on several occasions just as she had saved a very frightened young girl all those years ago. In fact, it was then Captain Carter who refused to believe she was a threat when Nirrti covertly placed a bomb in the girl's chest hoping to blow the SGC and as much of the surrounding area into oblivion.
"We don't do anything," she ruffled Cassie's hair trying to chance the subject.
Cassie pulled away from Sam. "Don't do that," she demanded.
"Do what?" Her brow crinkled in confusion.
"Pat me on the head and dismiss me like a little kid." She did show spirit, just like her feisty mother.
Great, she thought, dressed down like a green cadet. "I'm sorry. You're right," she admitted. "But, and there is a but here, Cass, there is nothing you can do." She raised her hand to halt any protests before Cassie found her voice. "I need to go off world. I don't want to leave you alone, but it's the only way to bring your mom home."
"I thought General Hammond said no." The young woman fought the fear threatening to overcome her calm facade.
Sam nodded in affirmation.
"Then what are you going to do?" She silently prayed Sam would stay home with her. She didn't think she would survive losing another mother.
"I'll talk to the general again and if he denies my request to jump," she let her thought hang in the air, "then I'll talk to my father and see if the Tok'ra High Council has heard from their operatives in the field." If that didn't work, then she would pool all of her skills and commandeer the gate room and jump to P3X-797, The Land of The Light, where she could formulate a plan without recrimination.
The composed teen suddenly transformed into the frightened young girl Sam rescued from the missile silo. She picked at her fingernails and stared at her shoes. "I'm afraid," she admitted in a shaky voice.
"I won't take no for an answer." She engulfed Cassie in a warm hug. "I'm not coming back without Janet."
Cassie didn't say it out loud, but that's what she feared the most.
P3X-666. Four days ago.
Lomar, newly appointed First Prime, appraised the battle field. He had watched and waited while Anubis's forces fought the Tau'ri. It was a fierce battle and he had itched to enter the foray, but his orders were clear...gather as many Jaffa as possible to enlist in his Goddess' army. So he calmly waited until the battle was over and now he and his Jaffa scavenged among the wounded and dead. In the past he had collected an impressive number of converts this way and was rewarded with the coveted spot of First Prime. He touched the gold emblem burned into his forehead with his fingertips and his mouth stretched into a hideous smile.
Anubis's forces had failed to keep the Tau'ri from escaping, but there were more than enough Jaffa to offer his Goddess. She would raise them from the dead and receive their oath of allegiance. Lomar had gathered an impressive army and soon the Tau'ri would be destroyed. His Goddess wished it and he was determined to make it so.
The Jaffa searched the bodies of the dead and dying littering the battle field choosing only those that were not too mutilated and thus beyond repair. A Goa'uld cargo ship descended through the blue clouds and landed in a nearby clearing. The bright sunlight gleamed off the gold exterior of the Tel'tac as it passed through the afternoon sun.
Two Jaffa approached Lomar's position and he addressed them in a commanding voice. "Begin the transports as soon as possible. We don't have much time before the Tau'ri return for their dead and injured." His lip curled in disgust. He didn't understand their pathetic need to coddle those too weak to survive.
As if on cue, the metal ring started to spin announcing the incoming wormhole. Once the blue liquid settled, a MALP rolled through the gate.
Lomar pointed to the machine. "Jaffa, kree!" He shouted.
Multiple staff weapons were raised and immediately the machine was reduced to scrap metal. An instant later, the wormhole disengaged.
The doors to the Tel'tac opened and a slight figure stepped onto solid ground. His sandy colored hair and dark blue robe fluttered in the gentle breeze. He scanned the immediate vicinity wincing against the bright sunlight. As he shaded his eyes with his left hand, streaks of light reflected off the upturned palm revealing a gold hand held device.
Lomar instantly acknowledged his arrival and closed the distance until he stood before his master and respectfully dipped his head and averted his gaze.
Bright blue eyes flashed and the distinctive low timbre of a Goa'uld voice demanded, "The area is secured?"
His ocean blue gaze turned to the gate where just moments before he watched as the Jaffa destroyed the machine seconds after it passed through the event horizon.
"Yes, my Lord." The First Prime replied.
"How many Jaffa are salvageable?" He asked as azure blue turned from the gate and looked across the open field.
"Initial estimates range up to twenty, my Lord Faunus." His dark eyes remained fixed on the gold boots worn by the Goa'uld.
Faunus nodded and started to walk towards the gate and Lomar obediently followed, but remained a respectful step behind. As he neared the area, Faunus noticed not all the bodies were Jaffa.
"Who was Anubis fighting here?" The young Goa'uld demanded.
Lomar cleared his throat. "The Tau'ri, my Lord." He kicked the nearest human in the ribs and turned him over with the toe of his boot. The SGC patch came into view as the body rolled lifeless to its back.
Faunus inwardly reeled and took a few steps away from Lomar to compose himself. Time slowed to a crawl as he perused the battlefield. The metallic copper stench of dead blood assaulted his sense of smell as it clung unwanted to the back of his throat and he breathed through his open mouth to minimize the foul odor.
Jaffa moved in slow motion as they picked through the carnage while ugly carrion birds perched high in the nearby trees waited impatiently to swoop and feed from the butchered flesh. He watched as the defeated Jaffa were taken to an area to the left of the Tel'tac to await transport to the Ha'tak vessel as soon as it reached orbit.
The humans were left where they had fallen.
Humans from Earth...specifically from Stargate Command.
"Are there any females among the Tau'ri?" Blue eyes closed as he silently prayed to whatever deity would listen. He stifled a sudden urge to laugh out loud at the absurdity of a Goa'uld praying to a god.
"Yes, my Lord. At least one." His large chest swelled with pride. "I killed her myself."
"Take me to her and any other female at once." His steady voice did not betray his emotional turmoil.
This revelation was unsettling. He knew he would eventually come in contact with humans from earth, but he was not prepared to come face to face with them so soon. And without a plan.
Lomar stood transfixed with his brow crinkled in confusion. The effect on the gold emblem intensified the expression.
Dark blue eyes flashed in anger and the First Prime quickly dipped his head in acquiescence. "Of course, my Lord." He turned to the nearest Jaffa and barked orders to find all the females and then led the Goa'uld to where the small woman had fallen.
Each step closer to their destination increased his heart rate until Faunus thought it would leap from his chest. As soon as the body came into view he heaved a sigh of relief. She was too small and her hair too dark. His respite was short lived however, when he neared enough to recognize the fallen brunette.
Body armor creaked against leather undergarments as Lomar stooped and cupped her tiny chin in his massive hand and turned it to face his master. She flopped like a rag doll; brown curls hung low over her closed eyes, lifeless features ghostly white against the stark contrast of dried blood splattered across her cheek and neck.
The First Prime cut a quizzical glance to the impassive Goa'uld who stood motionless before the fallen woman. "This is not Major Carter," he sneered in disappointment and swore an unintelligible oath under his breath.
One day, Lomar promised himself, he would have the blonde bitch screaming and writhing beneath him as O'Neill and the other two watched, and then he would dangle the broken woman by the throat with her feet twitching spasmodically as he crushed her last breath.
His fingers twitched of their own volition and a leer formed on his lips. He would take great pleasure in torturing her in front of them and then start the process all over again until they all had suffered and died by his own hand. One day soon he vowed. He continued in a louder voice. "The cowards escaped through the chaapa'ai."
While Lomar's current mission consisted of rebuilding a formidable army of Jaffa for his Goddess, his personal mission was to capture SG-1. He conceded a professional respect for the Tau'ri since the System Lords had placed a bounty on their heads long ago and yet they still had managed to evade capture. Anubis's failure was just the most recent in a long line of botched attempts by other Goa'uld.
Faunus ignored the First Prime, but was profoundly relieved to hear that SG-1 had survived Anubis's onslaught and had escaped to safety. He stared at the doctor, wondering why the base's chief medical officer been called upon in the middle of a war zone. She should not have been placed in such danger, yet the irrefutable truth lay at his feet with a gaping chest wound. He could barely fathom seeing her dead, but it was beyond his comprehension that they had left her behind. Obviously the heated battle had threatened to destroy the SGC forces and retreat was their only option to limit the heavy causalities they were taking.
He bent over and gathered the woman in his arms and cradled her to his chest like a baby. He grieved for Janet and for her lover...if she still lived. He grieved for everyone who had been privileged to know her. Her infectious smile was enough to lift the darkest mood and her touch enough to heal the most aggrieved of injuries. Faunus smiled despite the dire circumstances.
He had the power at his disposal and he could wield it like a double edged sword. He could revive her, but at the same time, place her in mortal danger. The balance of indecision weighed heavy on his mind...damned if he did and damned if he didn't. Unbeknownst to him, not only the fate of Janet Fraiser, but the fate of many worlds and the balance of power, rested heavily upon his weary shoulders.
A young Jaffa warrior approached them. He averted his gaze when Faunus turned his piercing blue eyes his way. "My Lord, there are no other females." His voice was no more than a quiet whisper. He sensed the diffidence surrounding the Goa'uld and waited patiently for further orders.
His choice finally made, Faunus easily shifted his burden and proceeded to the Tel'tac without a word. He knew the Jaffa would not question his actions. He was a god after all.
Lomar watched the retreating back of Faunus. He conceded that the woman was indeed beautiful and assumed he would take her as his mate once a suitable symbiote was chosen. Realizing his musings were inappropriate to time and place, the large warrior turned his attention to the immediate task at hand.
He waded through the stench and filth to be met half way to the gate by his second in command. "Once we are airborne, I want the chaapa'ai and the battlefield destroyed." His mouth stretched into a monstrous grin. "The Tau'ri can rot beneath the rubble." He wished he could see his enemy's face when the chaapa'ai would not engage.
The transport rings glowed and in a brilliant flash of white light deposited Faunus and Janet into a cargo bay of the gigantic mother ship orbiting P3X-666. He immediately exited the bay and marched through the corridors of the ship. They passed positioned sentries and slaves, but he did not register their salutes or submissive attempts of reverence.
The eerie light cast a shadow against the gold hieroglyphic covered walls as he passed and his heavy footfalls echoed against the narrow corridors. The pall of darkness only served to fuel his dark mood and feed his growing anxiety of how he would explain why he had saved a Tau'ri female. If he had been thinking with a clear head, the answer would have been obvious. Lomar's deduction of his desire for a mate would have been a plausible explanation.
He looked down on the figure wrapped in his arms. The right side of her face rested against his left chest and thick locks of brown hair hung in her eyes. He straightened his left arm and flexed his bicep muscle and her neck rolled against his arm. He gently brushed fingertips across her brow so he could gaze upon her beauty unfettered. She appeared to be sleeping, but the ghostly pale appearance and cold skin belied the truth.
Staring at the angelic face, Faunus realized how easy it could be to love her. He didn't begrudge the love he knew she shared with another, but it filled him with an emptiness that threatened to swallow him into depths of despair. Regret lingered like a bad taste in his mouth.
Conversely, it could be just as easy to walk away and never look back. Janet Fraiser had, after all, been left for dead. No one would be the wiser...except for him. Jealousy warred with loyalty, and in the end it was no contest. He swore a silent oath to protect this woman with his life if necessary. If she who haunted his thoughts was unable to keep the doctor safe, then he would in her stead.
The gold doors parted and Faunus entered the large bay. The room was empty except for two well armed Jaffa standing guard at the foot of a raised platform where an ornate sarcophagus rested in the middle of the dais. Thick intricately carved banisters enclosed the wide staircase leading to the elaborate tomb. He gracefully ascended the stairs with his burden in hand followed closely by the Jaffa.
The brown haired Goa'uld slightly inclined his head in a silent command and then a burley hand reached to press the vibrant blue gem resting on the top of the rectangular coffin. The lid slowly parted down the middle and easily slid open with a low grating sound. He shifted the dead weight and wrapped his left arm under her small knees and with the other cupped the back of her lolling neck. With one last look at the lifeless woman, Faunus stooped and carefully placed her in the tomb. He pressed the bright gem again and the lid closed with a resounding thud.
He addressed the guards. "Wait outside the bay. No one is permitted to enter."
"Yes, my Lord." The Jaffa obediently exited the area.
Once he was alone, Faunus reclined on the top step and waited for the sarcophagus to perform its magic. He needed the time to clear his head and formulate a plan to send Dr. Fraiser back to the SGC as soon as possible. He was not sure if she would be recognized once they joined the others since she rarely traveled off-world. He would need to ask her when she regained consciousness. He knew of her daughter, Cassandra Fraiser, and where she came from, but beyond the little girl's rescue by Major Carter, he knew nothing. The transplanted alien from Hanka was on a need to know basis, and apparently, he did not need to know.
The question was, did Dr. Fraiser know what was done to the people of Hanka?
Ten minutes later, the grating of the heavy halves of the lid interrupted his thoughts. He quickly jumped up and stood over the sarcophagus as the dark interior flooded with the room's ambient light revealing a pink face, glowing with newly given life. Her chest rose and fell in a regular cadence, but more fascinating to the young man was the lack of the mortal wound she had sustained less than an hour ago.
The sarcophagus was an enigma to the host, but represented a tool for slavery and degradation to the elder symbiote. Both emotions warred within them just as they fought to understand the myriad of emotions forced on the pair as they meshed into a cooperative living arrangement. The young man found it more and more difficult to separate himself from the Goa'uld as he spent more time in Dr. Fraiser's company. He could only guess the feelings would intensify exponentially now that she was awake.
The petite figure shifted slightly in the narrow space and groaned. Thick lashes fluttered as dark brown eyes blinked once and quickly closed as she fought a sudden rush of nausea and vertigo. Her left hand grasped the edge of the tomb in an attempt to stop her head from spinning. Relieved that the old remedy still worked, she then began to methodically assess her condition. She had one hell of a headache and her mouth tasted like cotton, but everything else seemed to be in working order. She wondered what the hell she had been drinking. She hadn't felt this bad since Sam had talked her into playing Indian Poker which quickly morphed into strip poker. Her lips formed a small grin at the memory, but quickly turned to a frown when another less pleasant memory pushed to the surface.
"Sam!" She forced her lover's name over dry lips and it echoed oddly around her.
Suddenly her arms and legs thrashed about the confining space as she panicked when she realized she was unable to move more than a few inches in any direction.
"SAM!" She called out again with more force.
"Relax, Dr. Fraiser. You're safe." The voice was soft and soothing and lacked the deep pitch of a Goa'uld.
The brunette squinted her fully dilated eyes to block some of the brightness stabbing through her forehead and tried to focus on the man standing before her. He was very young, slight of build, and his voice sounded vaguely familiar.
He smiled sadly at the frightened woman. "Major Carter is not here." He offered his hand and steadied her when she attempted to stand. "The disorientation will soon pass."
She looked at his hand resting on her forearm and he quickly withdrew the support and took a step away from the confused woman struggling to recall what had happened to her. A maelstrom of thoughts churned in her head causing her world to spin and threatened to topple over the precipice of sanity. Her head pounded as turbulent thoughts threatened to swallow and consume her.
...a frantic call for help and the rapid pounding in her ears as adrenaline rushed at an alarming rate...
...she and the medical team spat out of the blue liquid ready to rebirth the fallen...
...thankful for her vertical limitations, just this once, as she ran stooped low to the ground amid heavy crossfire...
...fighting back the urge to vomit as she anxiously searched for her lover amid the chaos...
...praying to any god that today was not a good day to die...
...shock and numbing disbelief as the energy discharge exploded against her chest...
...gazing at the bright azure sky after falling from the impact of the killing blow...
...Sam, her love, her life, and how much she would miss her...
...a radiating white light just out of her reach and then emptiness...
The doctor absently ran her hand over the wound. Someone had wrapped her field jacket over the hole seared into her shirt and flesh to prevent healed skin being exposed to wandering eyes. When she felt soft flesh against her fingertips she glanced over her shoulder and a shiver involuntarily ran up her spine causing the fine hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end. A sarcophagus.
She had been lying dead in a goddamned Goa'uld sarcophagus.
She closed dazed brown eyes and wrapped the field jacket tightly around her middle as she hugged her shuddering body.
Someone had placed her in the sarcophagus and since Sam was nowhere to be found, she assumed this young man was responsible for her resurrection. She hated being forced to trust him, but until she could think clearer and ascertain where she was and why Sam was not with her, she would keep an open mind.
Afraid the brunette was about to faint, Faunus tentatively touched her forearm once again to steady her. The doctor hesitantly accepted his offer and with assistance she stepped out of the tomb and leaned on the young man for support. She smiled in thanks and allowed him to guide her to the top of the stairs where they both sat down.
Her headache had lessened considerably, but the movement increased the dizziness to the point where she placed her head between her knees to prevent her from passing out.
He timidly reached to pat her knee and withdrew his hand like it had been burned. He felt uncomfortable around her, what could he say to someone who had just been raised from the dead?
"Welcome back, Dr. Fraiser." He flinched at his awkward attempt to make her feel at ease.
"Where the hell have I been?" She slurred around a thick tongue. "How, exactly, do you know my name?" Her speech became more precise with each syllable.
She glanced sideways and studied his visage and her brown eyes widened in recognition.
Bright blues eyes sparkled with mischief and his face blushed under the close scrutiny. He had never had the misfortune of being the recipient of her indomitable will, but he none the less found himself withering from her gaze. She had a nickname back home, Napoleonic Powermonger, but only the Colonel was brave enough or stupid enough to say it to her face.
His hair was longer and a shade lighter, and he was thinner than the doctor remembered, but this young man possessed all the looks and boyish charm of the young man left behind to complete a suicide mission on a planet crawling with Jaffa and Goa'uld. The major difference she could see was the haunted look in his eyes.
"Yes, ma'am." He rubbed the back of his neck and unconsciously played with the hem of his blue robe. "Surprise."
Janet tried to piece together the missing time line. "I thought you were...what I mean is..." She shook her head in confusion. "Forgive my ignorance, Lieutenant, but why aren't you dead?"
Her eyes glanced to his hands which had managed to pull a gold thread from the opulent blue robe. Fear quickly descended on her soft features as she flinched and scooted away from him. "Sam said you were hurt and Lantash blended with you." She ran a clinical eye from head to toe and back up again until she glared at the hand held device nestled on his left hand.
"Please, Dr. Fraiser," Elliot begged. "Don't be afraid. I would never hurt you." His imploring blue eyes relaxed her somewhat and she stopped moving away from him.
Elliot dipped his chin and when he raised his head his eyes flashed. "You need not fear us."
This new voice was unmistakably that of a Goa'uld. No, not a Goa'uld, Janet reminded herself. If he was indeed Lantash, then he was also a Tok'ra.
"Lantash?" She asked.
He nodded in affirmation. "Yes, Doctor. I am happy to once again make your acquaintance."
They last spoke on the morning his former host, Martouf, was killed, but he remembered their first conversation like it was yesterday...a benefit of longevity no doubt. The petite brunette told Martouf, and Lantash by default, in no uncertain terms that Samantha Carter was hers and to keep his roving eyes to himself. Or there would be hell to pay. And he believed her.
"Sam said you died on Revanna." She wondered how the young man had survived. The mission report stated Elliot was mortally injured and if Lantash had managed to miraculously heal him, they would have been killed along with the rest of the Goa'uld and Jaffa on the planet once he activated the toxic poison synthesized by the Tok'ra.
He grimaced. "That is a story best saved for another time. Suffice to say we survived." Lantash felt his young host's fear claw its way to the surface and he silently whispered soothing words to support and strengthen the young man's fragile psyche.
"Why didn't you come back to the SGC?" Even if he had not possessed an IDC remote or a valid code any longer, surely he could have gated to a world allied with Earth and then home.
Lantash sensed that his homesick host needed to communicate with the doctor; he had been severely injured, joined with a symbiote, and left to die on a planet light years away from his home. All on his first official assignment through the Stargate. He lowered his head and relinquished control to the young man desperate to touch base with humanity as he remembered it.
"I was in hiding for a long time. I had never been so scared in all my life." Elliot was embarrassed by his admission; he didn't want her to think less of him. "I was fresh out of the Academy and waiting to gate to other worlds. I had the tiger by the tail, you know?"
"Youth and exuberance go hand in hand." She had been in the Gate Room the morning the teams had prepared to jump. The fair-haired lieutenant was wide eyed and bouncing off the walls. Sam had joked about him acting like Cassie after eating too many sweets.
"My head was so big it needed its own zip code," he laughed, "but I was so scared I could barely swallow my own spit the first time I watched the gate spin and when the wormhole swooshed open I just stood and stared like a little kid."
His story reminded Janet of Sam's description of her first time standing in front of the open wormhole. Sam had touched the blue puddle and watched as the waves rippled across the event horizon. She said she felt like a kid in a candy store where everything was free. She also reluctantly admitted that O'Neill pushed her through just to shut her up.
Dark blue eyes clouded and he grimaced. "Then I got assigned to accompany SG-1 and met the Tok'ra. I don't think my feet hit the ground until all hell broke loose and the ceiling collapsed on my head."
Left unsaid was his worst fear, being separated from his team and abandoned to perform one last selfless act. If he had not been blended with Lantash he doubted he would have survived, not only the difficult mission assigned to the dying lieutenant, but the utter loneliness associated with being left behind.
"I went deep undercover for a long time," he continued, "and established myself as a minor Goa'uld..."
She waved a thin hand in the air between them, a move eerily similar to Colonel O'Neill.
He recognized the shift in gears and her need to ask another question. He was surprised she had managed to restrain herself for so long, knowing her as he did through Lantash's memories. "But I think that can wait for another time also."
She forced an apologetic smile. "I have to know, Lieutenant. What happened to Sam?" Please say she survived, the unspoken mantra repeated over and over.
Elliot sighed and began to fidget. He really could not say with much certainty what had actually happened to Major Carter and the others, except that Lomar reported they had all escaped through the chaapa'ai. Some were injured, but the Jaffa did not elaborate and Lantash did not want to arouse unnecessary suspicion by questioning him further.
At a loss for words, the more experienced Lantash once again emerged to answer her questions. "Major Carter escaped through the Stargate with her companions."
Janet sighed in relief. Sam had made it back. At least she was safe. Janet would rather have remained dead if her lover had not survived the battle.
"They were taking heavy fire from Anubis's forces and retreat was their only option to survive." He could see more questions hiding behind her stoic facade. She was more concerned with her lover's welfare than her own. This diminutive woman was made of stone. He was sure the doctor had never been confronted with such a test of character, and yet she stood unwavering in the face of dire adversity.
A loud knock resounded throughout the large room. "We will continue this conversation when we relocate to my chambers." He helped Janet off the floor and down the stairs and passively guided her by the elbow. "Do not speak until we are alone."
He opened the large doors and they walked into the corridor. Luckily Janet was an experienced trauma physician and barely reacted to the dead littering the hallway. She wondered what were they going to do with all those dead Jaffa. Her dark gaze rested once more on the sarcophagus and the connection hit her like a ton of bricks. She could imagine why the Jaffa were being resurrected. Waste not, want not.
It was like a freakish Frankenstein experiment gone awry. The reference was unsettling. Did she think of herself as a monster risen from the dead or just lucky to be alive? She couldn't allow such thoughts to taint her existence. Jack and Daniel had both spent time in the healing device and they had come out virtually normal...well at least Daniel had. Normal was not a word she would use to describe the surly colonel. Suffice to say, he remained his sarcastic, jackass self.
"Proceed with your task, Lomar." The arrogant voiced ordered. "I will be in my chambers. Do not disturb me until we have reached the planet."
"Yes, my Lord Faunus." He motioned to his Jaffa and they obediently carried the bodies into the room.
Janet cast a curious glance to Lantash, but remained silent. She had no idea where they were, but judging by the alien decor displayed as they navigated the corridors, she guessed they were aboard a ship. A Goa'uld ship no less. Why couldn't she have been rescued by the Asgard? She really would not have minded meeting Thor again and maybe Heimdall. Sam had only good things to say about him.
"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," she mumbled.
Her taller companion cast a curious glance her way. A few seconds later he chuckled in a deep resonant voice. Elliot must have silently communicated the meaning behind the unfamiliar phrase.
So, Lantash had a sense of humor after all, who'd have thought?
Martouf had always been serious, but once in a while his inner child would escape unchecked. The solemn Tok'ra, on the other hand, was nothing but painfully severe. The doctor had never seen a smile grace his stiff features, as opposed to his former host who wielded his dazzling smile like a weapon. A smile which he usually had trained on Sam.
Elliot reminded the brunette of Martouf in many ways...his glimmering blue eyes, infectious laugh, and boyish charm. She could only hope the young man would not become infatuated with her lover now that he shared all of Lantash memories, including knowledge of a one hundred year relationship with Jolinar, the Tok'ra who had blended with Sam years ago and died to save the tall blonde's life.
Janet inwardly groaned at the thought of yet again putting Lantash, and whoever was his host at the time, in his place where Sam was concerned. She doubted she would be spared that unpleasantness.
As they continued to traverse the corridors, they passed armored Jaffa and plain clothed men and woman scurrying like rats. Janet surmised they were servants and her assumption proved true when they plastered themselves to the walls with heads bowed, careful not to make eye contact with Lantash as he walked passed them.
The Jaffa were much less submissive. All of the warriors were adorned in battle armor, some with head pieces fully engaged, as they marched in small formations. The diminutive brunette covertly observed them as they clanked down the hallway and it was quite obvious to even her meager experience, these Jaffa had once served a variety of Goa'uld. The doctor recognized the falcon head of the Horus Guard which once served Ra and Heru'ur and the very familiar Serpent Guard of Apophis. It seemed the Jaffa did not care whom they served as long as it was a god.
Clearly one of the System Lords was acquiring conquered Jaffa to mass a large army. Since the battle was between Anubis and the SGC and he was known to scavenge forces from his defeated foes, Janet guessed she was a reluctant guest aboard one of his ships. She made a mental note to ask Lantash which Goa'uld he was serving.
The brown haired woman became more and more apprehensive with each footfall. She wondered what the hell she had gotten herself into. She was not sure if Elliot had done her any favors by placing her in the sarcophagus. She quickly chastised herself for such thoughts, the young man had given her a second chance at life and for that she would be forever grateful. She would have the opportunity to grow old and live the rest of her life with Sam.
The thought of her lover agonizing over their separation overwhelmed the doctor. Sam would no doubt own all the blame for the disastrous results of the battle with Anubis. Janet was sure the young major would be beside herself in frustration for leaving her behind. That code was so ingrained into the military soldiers and the SGC teams in particular that it was second nature to the blonde officer, but deserting her lover must be doubly hard to bear. Surely Sam had begun to formulate a rescue plan as she was forced to retreat through the gate to safety. Janet merely needed to be patient and not let fear grip her heart.
Wide-eyed, Janet visibly paled and suddenly stopped walking placing a vise-like grip on Lantash's forearm. "She thinks I'm dead." Delicate fingers dug into soft flesh until beads of blood welled from beneath her fingertips. "Oh, God. Sam thinks I'm dead."
Janet could expect no rescue. She and Elliot were on their own.
SGC. One day ago.
Prolific cursing rocked the locker room and echoed down the adjacent corridors as a stunned Daniel Jackson swayed in its wake and then stopped dead in his tracks, unsure whether he should venture anywhere near the brewing storm or just turn tail and run as fast and far away as possible.
Another round of expletives accompanied a loud crash quickly followed by the banging of what Daniel assumed to be a locker door being slammed shut...repeatedly. He decided, against his better judgment, to see who was on the rampage and more importantly, why.
He slowly opened the door and closed it immediately just before a loud crash and shattered glass reverberated against the door.
"GODDAMN!" A female voice screamed, and then another loud bang, as metal ground against metal, reached his ears. "SON...OF...A...FUCKING...BITCH!" Each utterance accompanied the sound of her boot kicking the nearest locker.
The voice undeniably belonged to a very pissed off Major Carter. Daniel couldn't walk away when Sam was that upset, so he cracked the door and after a cursory all clear glance, he quickly jumped through the opening and closed it with his back.
He stood perfectly still with eyebrows arched high on his brow and mouth agape. It looked as though Sam had captured a tornado by its tail and spun the spiraling monster like a whirling dervish until nothing was left standing in the path of destruction. Many of the lockers had huge dents and black scuff marks, while others hung open and bent at awkward angles. Somehow she had managed to rip one door off the hinges.
Sam's entire locker was scattered about the room in various states of disarray. Clothing hung haphazardly on open doors and heaped on the floor, an Air Force Academy mug rested precariously on a bench, and small black and white pieces of something Daniel could not readily identify lay everywhere.
On closer inspection, he recognized and identified the pieces scattered across the floor as magnetic poetry. He smirked and then involuntarily glanced at Sam and cursed himself for the gesture. He quickly averted his gaze before she ripped him a new one. His new line of vision spied a variety of pictures of SG-1 along with Janet and Cassie strewn among the debris.
The eye of the storm stood unmoving with arms wrapped around her torso, chest heaving with each jagged breath and eyes dilated beyond color recognition to glow with an eerie obsidian gaze. He wondered how she was still standing after exerting that much energy in such a short time frame. Maybe she would just implode.
Daniel's heart cried out to his friend and he took a hesitant step toward her. Glass crunched underneath his boots as he trampled the remains of a framed photograph. He bent over and picked it up to inspect the damage. The wooden frame was broken and the glass shattered, but the picture remained intact. A moment in time captured as two smiling faces were caught by the camera, one Sam, the other her father, Jacob Carter.
He wiped the photo on his shirt, relieved that the picture survived Sam's outburst and his subsequent heavy footsteps. He remembered when this pictured had been taken; most of the SGC lounged in Janet's backyard enjoying a late summer barbeque and he had taken them unaware and snapped the picture before he ran and hid behind Teal'c for protection.
He turned to face Sam, his voice thick with emotion. "I don't think it's damaged." He extended his arm and offered her the picture. "Frame's busted," he chuckled as he licked his lips in a nervous gesture.
Sam did not appreciate his poor attempt at humor. "I don't want it," she hissed. She did, however, retrieve all the pictures of Janet and Cassie and slipped them into her pocket.
She rudely brushed past Daniel and almost made it out the door before he caught her by the arm and refused to let go when she glared at him.
"Let me go," the major demanded.
With the shake of his head, he stood his ground. "No, Sam. We are going to talk, whether you like it or not."
She stopped, but remained standing with her back to him. At least he had her attention.
"Something happen between you and Jacob?" What a dumb question. He went to University, actually held several degrees.
The blonde scoffed, "Yeah, you could say that." She jumped when she felt Daniel take her by the hand, but did not resist as he guided her weary body to sit on the bench next to his.
"Sam, you are scaring the hell out of me."
Janet's death had taken its toll on the entire SGC, but Sam was like an open wound, suffering as flesh gashed open and bled freely despite her friend's efforts to soothe her pain.
She rolled her blue eyes and sighed. "I'm sorry, Daniel. It's just...I feel so helpless." She ran trembling fingers through her blonde hair. "I need to do something, you know?"
He nodded and encouraged her to continue, happy that she was finally letting down her guard and talking to him...to anyone. She had been wound so tight he feared she would explode, all alone, without the benefit of a friendly shoulder to cry on.
"I asked General Hammond to allow SG-1 to mount a search and rescue mission."
"By the look of this place, I'd say he refused the mission."
Sam nodded. "Apparently, the Tok'ra, under the command of my father, sent a scout ship to P3X-666. Death Gliders destroyed what little remained in the area, totally burying the gate under tons of rock."
She swallowed the sob working its way up from her broken heart. "There was nothing left, Daniel. No evidence, no cold trail to follow," she blinked back tears, "no bodies. Everything obliterated."
"That explains why we couldn't dial the address after the first two attempts." Hammond had opened the wormhole, but incoming weapons fire immediately filled the gate room effectively ending any recon before it had begun. His brows wrinkled in confusion. "Why would the Goa'uld destroy the gate?"
"Who knows why they do anything. Maybe they were pissed that some of us escaped...maybe it was just a Goa'uld temper tantrum." She shrugged her shoulders. "But then again, maybe they were hiding something."
"Why would the Goa'uld go to such extreme measures to prevent us from returning to the planet?"
"My point, exactly!" She exclaimed.
Sam's convoluted logic began as a small itch, hovering just below the surface, barely recognized, until the tingling increased in intensity and raked over exposed nerves to slowly crawl and worm its way into consciousness where it could no longer be ignored.
Could Sam be correct in her assumption that Janet had indeed survived? The thought of the small woman, hurt and left behind, dampened the archaeologist's already heavy heart. He began to question his sanity. First Sam insisted they had left her behind, then Jack vacillating back and forth, and now...what? He didn't know how Teal'c felt; he never bothered to ask the stoic man. He made a mental note to apologize for being so insensitive.
What did Daniel truly believe? Why couldn't he trust his friend's judgment? Because he watched as Janet took her last breath. He was sure of it. Wasn't he?
Silver framed glasses slid down his nose and he absently pushed the wire rims back where they belonged. He wondered if grief induced insanity was contagious, because the longer he spent in Sam's company the more she made sense. Sandy brown hair shook as he attempted to clear the uncertain thoughts cluttering his mind, causing his head to throb with each beat of his heart.
"I don't know what to think anymore, Sam." He was surprised to see the photograph still clasped between his fingers. He knew she loved the picture, it was one of a handful taken of father and daughter since Jacob joined with the Tok'ra. Daniel wondered if her anger was directed at Jacob or what he had found on the planet. "Why are you angry with your father?"
"I should have been on that ship!" She jumped up from the bench and wrung her hands. "He didn't even tell me they were going to the planet." She looked at the intact mug on the bench and wondered how she had missed it in her tirade, and with a satisfied sneer, she heaved it against the wall.
The planet served as ground zero and with the gate effectively out of commission, a ship was the only other means of transportation. He took that opportunity away from her when he circumvented the SGC and Sam in particular, but it did give her an idea how to proceed. She smiled at the prospect of finally having a plan.
Daniel watched as her face registered one emotion after another during her diatribe, starting with anger and finally ending in what he would best describe as patent Sam Carter determination.
"What are you thinking, Sam?" He asked, but was afraid to hear the answer.
"I'm going to find her, one way or another." She promised.
The locker room door swung open and General Hammond stood in the doorway wearing a deep frown.
Daniel hoped the general hadn't heard her last statement.
He nodded his head toward the archaeologist. "You're dismissed, Dr. Jackson."
Daniel sighed and placed the picture on the bench and then he gave Sam's hand a squeeze and lightly brushed past the general as he waded through the debris to exit the room.
Hammond slowly scanned the destroyed room and then turned his steel gaze on the tall woman standing in front of him. "What the hell are you doing? Are you trying to get court-martialed? Because that's what this looks like to me, Major." He stepped closer to the blonde and stood nose to nose. "I thought I had made my self clear. You are to drop this...now!"
Sam refused to back down. "I will not." As an after thought, she added, "Sir."
A seething Hammond finally blinked and tore his gaze away from the insubordinate major. Time for Plan B since the end of this conversation would lead to only one conclusion...the major cooling off in a holding cell. He wondered if he could actually give the order to confine his best friend's daughter. In truth, he considered Sam as one of his own.
He wiped his moist brow as beads of perspiration formed on his bald head and trickled down his neck to cool and soothe the fire escaping his shirt collar. He exhaled a shuddering breath and shook his head. "You are as stubborn as the first day I met you." He sat on the bench and inclined his head to the empty spot at his side.
The blonde defiantly stood her ground with arms crossed over her chest.
"Please? Talk to me, Sam." The general rarely used her first name and when he did, it meant the conversation was private and off the record.
The blonde sighed and reluctantly took a seat beside her life long friend and not her commanding officer. Head bent in defiance, the angry woman nervously picked at imagined lint on her black t-shirt, refusing to meet his stare.
Hammond waited for her to begin, but with her cobalt gaze firmly focused on the littered floor, he knew it would be up to him to break the deafening silence. "I can't begin to understand how you feel right now," he began in a quiet voice, almost a revered whisper. "I know what Janet meant to you...what you both meant to each other."
Her head snapped to attention so fast he expected to hear the resulting sonic boom. Imploring sad eyes studied his normally stoic features to ascertain the validity of his statement. Where she expected to see judgment and condemnation, she saw instead a face lined with sorrow and understanding.
"How long have you known?" She asked, stunned beyond belief.
"Long enough." The corners of his mouth curved in a small smile. "I've never cared for that asinine 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, and since you both have always conducted yourselves as consummate officers, I have never regretted my decision to look the other way."
"I don't know what to say." Her head spun with the implications of her relationship with Janet being common knowledge to the one person who could kick them out of the service.
"You know I love you like a daughter, Sam." A banging headache made itself known as he struggled to say words that, no matter how delicately spoken, would still sound harsh and cruel.
Sam impatiently waited for the inevitable 'but' she knew was forthcoming.
"But, I can't stand back and watch you destroy your career."
"You think this is about my career?" She stood towering over her friend. "I don't give a DAMN about that. My life is shattered in a million pieces and I'm doing what I can to put it back together again." She winced and massaged the back of her stiff neck. "I know Janet is out there," she absently waved her right hand, "and I'm going to find her with or without your help."
The imagined thud of the proverbial gauntlet echoed throughout the room.
The turn of the conversation was quickly slipping his grasp. "When my wife died, I climbed into a bottle and stayed there for months until your father helped me realize my life would go on."
She easily recognized the misdirection and employed a diversionary ploy of her own. "If you had the chance to save your wife, what would you do in my place right now?"
"That's not fair." Blue eyes flashed in anger, but the truth of her words lingered in the silent accusation, but the older man forced that thought to the back of his mind and continued in a voice rough with emotion. "My wife died of cancer. The circumstances are very different."
"My father should have died, but instead he is an integral part of a rebel force of Goa'uld. He's alive today only because I took a chance to save his life."
"Sam, we can't always save the world with alien technology, symbiotes, or half-assed plans hatched in desperation."
"But that's what you have asked...expected... from me on countless occasions. That's my job as the resident think tank, and I accept that task, but when I ask for something that really matters to me," she poked her chest in emphasizing her point, "you tie my hands and force feed the good soldier crap down my throat." A humorless chuckle escaped her throat. "Surely you see the irony here?"
What he saw was a woman grieving for the loss of her lover, and while her earlier words rang true, he did not believe Janet Fraiser survived her injuries and had no reason to believe any intervention, divine or otherwise, had interceded on her behalf.
"We don't have the resources to indulge in wild suppositions. Why didn't we go back and save Ambassador Faxon from the Aschen? Or Lieutenant Elliot?"
"Now who's not playing fair?" She spat.
"What do you suggest we do?" He asked through clenched teeth. "If you are correct and somehow Janet is still alive, where would we begin the search?"
"Explore P3X-666 again." Her tone raised an octave...definitely not her indoor voice.
"You're refuting Tok'ra intelligence?" His patience was quickly growing thin, but Sam either didn't notice or didn't care.
"No, they missed something." She shouted. Apparently she was beyond caring about anything except finding her lover.
The door creaked open as raised voices alerted the SF's stationed in the hallway. Twin sets of dark eyes bore through the back of the major's skull and then flickered to the general awaiting orders.
Unable to contain his anger any longer, a red-faced General Hammond stood and glared at Major Carter, all pretext of familiarly gone. Once again, she refused to back down, instead standing toe to toe with the irate general. The hard line of her jaw squared as a single muscle clenched rhythmically. Back ramrod straight and head held high, she stood at attention waiting for the inevitable reprimand.
Eyes closed briefly to the obstinate gaze, he silently prayed the young woman would comply with his command. "Dr. Fraiser was declared KIA and you will drop any notion of a search and rescue operation. Is that clear, Major?"
This was the last chance he was willing to give her.
"No, Sir. I will do everything in my power to get her back." She defiantly stood her ground.
"Then you leave me no choice." He nodded to the SF's. "Confine Major Carter to her quarters." He hoped Jacob would eventually forgive him.
The young major turned on her heel and froze when she saw O'Neill, Daniel, and Teal'c standing just inside the doorway. She didn't know how long they had been there, but judging from their dour expressions, it had been long enough. She swept past the men without a word and disappeared down the corridor with an armed escort.
A low whistle broke the silence of the room. "Jesus, you weren't kidding, Daniel. Would ya look at this place?" O'Neill's sharp gaze traveled from one end of the trashed room to the other. "A little paint, new tile, replace the lockers, fix the chips in the ceiling..."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "We get it, Jack."
"Remind me to NEVER piss Carter off."
"I believe you have already done so, O'Neill."
He visibly winced at the reminder. "Thanks, Teal'c." Sarcasm was his friend.
"I've had as many smart-ass comments as I can take today." The confrontation with Carter had left the general drained and feeling older than his sixty-some years. He wondered, not for the first time, why he hadn't retired a long time ago.
"Whoa, General. Just trying to lighten the mood. You know me and my motor mouth. I never know when to shut up."
A chorus of voices piped up. "Shut up, Jack."
O'Neill pretended to zip and lock his pursed lips and then proceeded to toss the non-existent key over his left shoulder.
Hammond stormed out of the room with the remaining members of SG-1 hot on his heels. "Briefing room. Now!" He barked.
Drab, colorless concrete formed a confining perimeter as the caged major marked every millimeter of her make-shift prison. Twelve paces exactly from the door to the bathroom and twelve paces back. The imaginary line scored the floor as she paced the length again and again, until each subsequent pass enclosed the walls a little more.
Dead man walking. Her imprisonment lacked the rattle of leg and wrist irons, but Leavenworth wasn't far behind if she somehow managed to escape through the Stargate.
Labored, shallow breathing filled the recycled air to compete with the stifling heat effectively creating an invisible barrier that wrapped around her tight chest and squeezed until her lungs were impervious to oxygen. Dull hearing became more distant and bright lights flashed behind her eyes to be replaced by a descending curtain of darkness. Three more steps and the collapsing blonde reached the safety of soft bedding.
Hyperventilating and sweating profusely, she threw herself on the bed and willed the room to stop spinning. Sam had never suffered from claustrophobia before, but the physical restriction compounded with her emotional turmoil threatened to suffocate her very existence. Heavy eyelids closed as her exhausted body threatened to succumb to the biological need to protect organs vital to her survival.
She concentrated on her breathing until a slower, deeper pattern emerged. Air in, air out. Oxygen enriched blood circulated to her brain and revived a shocked nervous system. Her vision and hearing swiftly improved to the point where she could sit up and lean against the wooden headboard.
Eyes as blue and depthless as the ocean, blinked as each escape scenario ran through her mind. She had already tried the ventilation shaft, but it proved too small to accommodate her lithe form. The SF's never left her door unguarded, so the obvious route through the front door was out. The answer hovered just out of reach, but she knew it was there.
"Think," she muttered and ran long fingers through locks of blonde hair. Fatigue finally forced the tired woman to scoot down and settle onto the bed to relieve tense muscles.
After several boring hours of laying flat on her back and counting cracks in the gray ceiling tiles, the frustrated blonde turned on her right side and reached into her pants pocket to retrieve the photos she had rescued earlier. A few were pictures of Cassie with the older women, but the majority consisted of either Janet alone or the two happy lovers sharing a moment captured in time. Such brief glimpses were all she had left now. Sam traced the brunette's beautiful smile with her index finger.
"Please forgive me, baby." Hot tears spilled once again to roll down her cheek and neck and pool beside the blonde curls resting on the soft pillow. She hugged the photo to her trembling chest and closed her eyes.
Sam finally succumbed to exhaustion and emotional turmoil and fell into a restless sleep. The nightmare began almost as soon as her eyes closed. Bed sheets strained against the tossing and turning until finally wrapping around the sweat-soaked woman to form a confining cocoon.
The nightmare segued into a ghoulish conglomerate of fast moving snippets of her past. The more she struggled against the sheets the more her nightmare insinuated itself until she felt as though she were restrained.
With hands bound tightly behind her back, she is roughly pushed to her knees by a Jaffa standing behind her while Hathor tortures her with a handheld device...
Still on her knees, but now before Apophis. Hot liquid is forced into her mouth until she chokes...
Cold liquid now, as she fights to surface through the numbing water. Strapped to a hard table with wet hair slicked back from her forehead as Nem looks down at her struggling against the restraints...
Confined to the swirling helix bubble as Nirrti manipulates her DNA...
Against her will, Jolinar joins with her, stifling her individuality...
The images flashed in an endless cycle and sped up until she no longer, even subconsciously, could comprehend them. A warm tingling then started in the middle of her furrowed forehead and spread throughout her entire being like a starburst. She immediately calmed at the soothing touch, but did not awaken.
Slowly an image appears in her mind of herself standing all alone in a void. The image then changes to a hazy vision that she is third party witness to along with an older woman, who stands behind the blonde with her hand resting on her shoulder. Sam cranes her neck to face the woman, but despite her identity hidden in the haze, her presence feels oddly comforting and familiar.
The haze then lifts and the vision clears to once again reveal the massacre and Janet falls to the ground after taking the blast to her chest.
The fine blonde hairs on the back of her neck prickled with an unseen force akin to the feel of an overloaded electrical charge right before its release. Instantly alert, she sat up as blue eyes flew open and canvassed her room. Nothing was out of place, but she knew she was not alone.
The younger woman violently shook and cried out. "Why are you doing this?"
The question hung in the air and remained unanswered as the waking nightmare continued until the shaken major questioned her sanity.
The scene fades from Janet lying on the ground to her funeral in the Gateroom and then of Sam going through the motions of work and living alone. Looking tired and haggard, she watches as Cassie walks down the sidewalk away from their home.
Now alone, an older Sam watches impassively as the SGC defends the Stargate against a fierce Jaffa attack. A short battle ensues, but the soldiers are outnumbered and overpowered. A Goa'uld armored in gold steps through the gate and the men and women are brought to his feet and executed one by one.
The next scene unfolds and a huge mothership fires a red beam on Earth and then jumps to hyperspace. The resulting explosion decimates the planet and wave upon wave of destruction reaches the closest neighboring planets until the solar system explodes in a flash of bright light.
Sam threw the bed covers back and jumped out of bed, but unsteady knees buckled and she fell weeping to the cold floor. "Why? Why are you doing this to me?" She asked again.
The older woman materialized and remained unmoving behind the anguished blonde just as she had in the disturbing visions. Her answer came in a hushed tone. "This," a wrinkled hand found purchase on the blonde's forehead and then she spoke of the stilled images of destruction, "was the direct result of Janet Fraiser's death."
She audibly swallowed and closed her blue eyes. "I cannot allow this to happen. This was not supposed to happen." She grasped Sam by her shoulders and helped her to her feet. She slowly turned the younger woman until they faced each other for the first time.
Sam's blue eyes widened in recognition. "Oh my God!" She took a shaky step toward the woman and placed her palm on her cheek. She looked deep into familiar blue eyes. "It's really you?" Sam asked not quite believing what her eyes had already told her.
A radiant smile graced the lined face as she placed her hand over Sam's. "It's really me, Samantha."
She looked slightly older than she had when SG-1 first encountered her during their strange trip to the future in attempt to return to their own time after a freak jump to 1969, but she was without a doubt Cassandra Fraiser.
The much older woman engulfed her mother in a warm hug. She wished she could have saved Sam the grief, but knew she had to adhere to a higher voice.
Sam pushed her daughter an arm's length away. "Is she really gone?" The question was whispered as if she really didn't want to hear the answer.
"The future has been changed and the timeline is in chaos. Fragmented parts of possible futures are splintered and disjointed. Many different versions of the future have surfaced and you must find a way to return the timeline back to its original designation."
"You haven't answered my question." Sam searched her eyes for the truth. "Is Janet gone?" The ache in her chest intensified as she held her breath.
Cassandra took Sam's hands in her own and gave a reassuring squeeze. "Janet is alive, but she is in grave danger."
The sob she had been holding back escaped her lips as she cried tears of joy. Unruly blonde locks gave way as she combed her hands through her hair. "What happened? Where is she?"
Instead of answering, Cassandra placed her palm on Sam's forehead and a new vision began to form.
Her body stiffens when she realizes she is back on P3X-666 and Janet is already on the ground. A young male stands over her body. She immediately identifies him as a Goa'uld by his flowing blue royal robes and by the fact he is flanked by a large Jaffa. They exchange silent words and then the Goa'uld picks her up and carries her away.
The younger woman reeled and Cassandra steadied her before she lost her balance.
"What the hell was that?" Her stomach lurched like her first trip through the wormhole. She was thankful she hadn't felt like eating anything in days or else she would have vomited.
"Just a side effect of my touch." She tried to reassure the unsteady major. "Nothing permanent, I assure you."
Rubbing her throbbing forehead, Sam took a wobbly step away from her grasp. "Well, you could have warned me first." Her head began to clear and she finally stepped away unaided from the older woman. "You said she wasn't dead," she accused.
"She's not dead, Sam. Please believe me."
"She sure as hell looked dead to me."
Cassandra sighed. "Okay, Sam, listen to me very carefully. Mom died and she was taken by a Goa'uld and placed in a sarcophagus."
"He saved her?" She replayed the scene over again, but no matter how many times she visualized the blue-robed figure, she could not see his face. "Who is he and why would he do that?"
"I really don't have those answers, Sam." A huge sigh escaped her lips. "There must be more going on here than I can see."
Blue eyes blinked in confusion. "Cassandra the Prophetess?"
Sam wasn't sure she liked the connection. In Greek Mythology Cassandra had warned that Troy would be destroyed and nobody listened to her doomed prophecy. Sam vowed she would listen and do everything in her power to put things back in order.
"My vision is limited. I know the original time line has been changed and you are an integral part of restoring it, but I don't see all the variables."
"Alright, let's just stop here." Sam rubbed her eyes with sweaty palms. "You said this wasn't supposed to happen to Janet. Who or what caused this divergence to occur?"
The sixty-four thousand dollar question was finally out in the open.
"There are forces working here that I just can't divulge." Cassandra regretted the need for subterfuge, but the present had already been altered at least once and she had no desire to add to the confusion. "The less I tell you, the better off you and the entire time line will fair."
Sam snorted, "Yeah, better be careful or you'll change the future." She really wasn't in the mood for cryptic rhetoric.
"Your sarcasm is hardly helping, Sam," the older woman admonished.
"I'm sorry, Cass," she sheepishly replied. "I can't breathe in here. I'm used to action and sitting here on my hands and doing nothing is just wrong."
She flopped down on the bed and sat with her knees pulled to her chin. "I understand that you can't tell me much, but you have to give me something to go on." She motioned to her confining quarters. "I'm kinda at an impasse here."
What were Cassandra's expectations? If the blonde major had had the answers already they wouldn't be stuck in the claustrophobic heat talking obscure metaphysics and trading barbs. Well, at least Sam wouldn't be making snide comments; Cassandra's patience served her well.
How much should she divulge to the very brilliant astrophysicist? The repercussions of cause and effect could run unchecked and spread through causality like a plague until the original time line was an unrecognizable bastardization of 'what if's'.
So the older woman decided to expound on aspects she had already revealed. "The Goa'uld victory happened only because Janet didn't fulfill her destiny."
The scientist waited for her to continue, but soon realized she wasn't prepared to share any more information. "And that would be?" It was like pulling teeth to get Cassandra to commit and actually give her the information she desperately needed to formulate a plan of rescue.
Lips pursed and then audibly exhaled. "I don't think you need to know that." She silently pleaded for Sam to drop her line of questioning.
Trying a different approach, she asked her daughter, "If Janet was so integral to our future, then how could this have happened?" Sam pondered the answer to her own question.
It had been many years since Cassandra had witnessed the scientist attack an impossible problem, in this case, an improbable question, with such energy. Given time Cassandra was sure her blonde mother would find the solution, but time was not a luxury either could afford.
"Someone from the future altered the time line?" Sam knew she was guessing, but hell, her educated guesses were better than most.
Thin lips stretched into a smile. "Not from the future, Sam." She would throw morsels to appease her curiosity.
"But someone has changed the past." She countered.
"Yes, the future's past has been altered, but your future is yet to occur." She smirked at her mother when Sam rolled her eyes. "In the present, there are many paths laid open before us. Which path is chosen sets the future in motion. If we believe in destiny or preordained fate, then it could be argued no matter what path is taken, the future will always be the same."
"What about free will?" She asked.
"There is always that variable if you believe we have the power to steer our own destiny."
"You don't believe in free will?" Sam was intrigued and if Janet's life wasn't in question, she would argue with her daughter until she keeled over with exhaustion.
The woman from the future wished she had never opened that can of worms. Sam was worse than a parasite embedded deep in the skin when she felt her argument was justified. "For the sake of arguing semantics with an astrophysicist, I'll forgo my opinions on preordained fate or self-fulfilling prophecies and cut to the chase. Agreed?"
A blonde head bobbed in silent agreement. "Let me get this straight. You're saying the only way to change the future is to change the past, but the past must be changed in the present?" Sam rubbed her temples to avert the pounding headache which took up residence right after Cassie started speaking. She offered a silent apology to anyone who was ever forced to endure her technobabble speech.
Cassandra smiled again. She knew her analytical mind would have little difficulty in grasping the concept, but what she was about to reveal next would shake the blonde to her very foundation. The smile faded and the older woman took Sam's hand in her own.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" The major quipped.
"I'm afraid not, Samantha." White robes rustled while she repositioned herself on the edge of the bed. "Try to listen to what I have to say before going ballistic."
"I'll try, Cassie." It was quite odd to have this conversation with her daughter, who was much older, and still using phrases such as 'going ballistic'. If Sam closed her eyes, she would swear they were in their living room discussing the youngster's latest science project.
"Three years ago, SG-1 jumped to PX-636 and found a destroyed civilization."
"Yes, the Velonans developed a weapon of mass destruction and then turned it on their neighbors in a show of dominance."
"A weapon they built with the help of an exiled ascended being."
The renegade had taken matters in his own hands and was punished by the others of his kind because he had interfered in the Velonan culture. In an attempt to flee his banishment, the alien had forced his 'spirit' on Sam and when communication proved unsuccessful; he simply followed the major home through the Stargate and literally set up housekeeping unbeknownst to anyone else.
"He fell in love with you." She was careful not to sound accusatory.
"You know he didn't mean anything to me." Sam still felt guilty about that fiasco and Janet and Cassie teased her unmercifully about her naivety about love in general and men in particular.
"You couldn't possibly still be upset about that?" Cassandra asked incredulously.
"Yeah well, it may have been a long time ago for you, but not enough for me. I thought Janet was going to leave me because of him."
Despite the situation, Cassandra laughed at Sam's comment. "Mom was never going to leave you, silly. That was your insecurity...that you were never good enough for her."
"I'm still working on that," she chuckled. "Tell me, do I ever get over it?" She flashed the megawatt Carter smile.
Cassandra crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her mother. "Mom loves you so much, Sam. Don't ever doubt the bond you share."
"How'd you get to be so smart, kiddo?"
"I had wonderful parents." Cassandra pulled the younger woman into a warm hug.
Sam released her and leaned back on her hands. "Okay, why don't we get to the part where I go ballistic."
A huge sigh escaped the older woman's lips. "The Velonan jump was the trigger point for changing the time line, but it didn't actually happen until P3X-666."
Sam's brow crinkled in confusion. "We weren't supposed to be there?" Sam had a difficult time connecting the two very different jumps.
"That's not it. You were meant to meet Orlin, but his attraction to you changed the future."
The blonde woman sat unmoving with her gaze transfixed on her daughter. Paralyzed with anguish, she held her breath until she felt light-headed and her vision swam with flashing black dots.
"Breathe, Sam." She soothed her mother by rubbing her arm.
"What are you saying?" The distraught woman jumped from the bed and paced the room. "Janet would not have suffered if Orlin hadn't fallen in love with me?" Sam was on the verge of becoming hysterical. "Oh my God, this is all MY fault!"
"Sam." The other woman stepped into her path and grasped both wrists. "This is not your fault." She should have known that was how Sam would react. "Listen to me very carefully." Cassandra tilted her chin to lock eyes with her mother. "You have a very skewed memory if you think you are in any way to blame."
Sam closed her eyes. "I never should have..."
She was interrupted by a soft touch to her forehead. Blue eyes snapped open in surprise and then everything went black.
Sam is standing in her kitchen talking on the phone with Daniel. Their conversation ends and she turns around surprised to see a nondescript man standing calmly across the table island dividing the kitchen and living room.
"How did you get in here?" She demands.
"I won't hurt you." He answers, his voice a monotone.
"No, I'll hurt you," she shouts, "if you come any closer." She begins to dial the phone that she still is clutching in her right hand.
"Please don't. I just want to talk to you." He hasn't moved a muscle, just stands there frozen to the same spot on the kitchen tile.
"It's complicated." His voice inflection never wavers.
"Let's start with how you got into my house."
"I followed you home last night." His innocent demeanor is unsettling.
"You've been here all night?" The blonde asks incredulously. How the hell did he manage to spend the entire night undetected?
"I read some of your books and watched the television so I could learn how to speak and what to wear." He looks down at his gray jacket and blue jeans. "Is this okay?"
She continues to stare at the stranger unsure what to make of him. "You've been in my house all night?" This was too much. The guys must have put him up to this.
"Yes, but you couldn't see me. I just took this form now so we could relate."
He just took this form? What the hell was he smoking?
"Actually, I used to look this way before my ascension."
This guy must have escaped from the local mental facility; even the colonel couldn't come up with this insane story. She quickly redials the base.
"Please. I'm not crazy." Is he a mind reader, too?
The irate blonde slams the phone down on the table. "Who are you?" She again demands.
"My name is Orlin. I'm from the planet you just visited. I followed you back through the Stargate."
"See, that's impossible." How does he know about the Stargate?
"I can become invisible in my natural non-corporeal state." As he speaks he begins to move toward his reluctant host and walks right through the table to stand directly in front of the wide-eyed blonde.
Sam involuntarily withdraws several steps away from the strange man until she backs up against the sofa. "What do you want?" She demands.
"I'm sorry if I scared you. I just wanted to talk to you. It's been so long since I...I..." He momentarily stops speaking as if searching for the appropriate words. "I know this is going to seem...okay, I'll just come out and say it and move on from there. I have these...I guess you would call them feelings for you. Actually, the truth is...I love you."
Sam edges away from him during his speech and quickly walks out of the house leaving his declaration of love to hang in the air.
"I thought I told you to warn me next time." Ice blue eyes opened and squinted in disapproval.
Gray blue eyes crinkled in amusement. "Consider this your warning." Cassandra placed her palm on her forehead again.
Sam unlocks the door and steps into her house. Orlin is standing at the end of the long hallway.
"You're late." He accuses.
"What do you mean?" She closes the door.
"You said you'd be home an hour ago. I was worried."
The purse slung over her shoulder ends up on the hall table along with her keychain. She walks toward him. "Hey, this is not a relationship we have going here. I don't even know what it is."
"You still could've called." He chastises her.
"What are you talking about?" Slender hands wave in the air. "You couldn't even have answered the phone even if I called."
"Maybe I could've," he smirks.
The blonde shakes her head in disbelief and then notices the table is set intimately for two. "How...I mean, I thought..." She tentatively touches his shoulder and is stunned when she feels solid flesh.
"How?" The ever curious scientist asks.
He ignores her question. "Things have been going well between us. Right?"
"There is no us, Orlin." It was like talking to a brick wall or a small child. "There never can be."
"That's just because we both used to live on different planes of existence."
"Used to?" What the hell has he done now?
"It's possible for my kind to take human form. Actually, retake human form. Considering this is the way we started."
"Orlin, you know how I feel about you, or rather, what I don't feel."
"You just need time to adjust."
"NO!" She shouted. Oh, fuck me. This is NOT happening. "Dammit, Orlin. You know I'm in love with Janet. When you were in my mind, you felt everything I feel for her. I will never be what you want. I will NEVER love you."
He was speechless. Maybe she was finally reaching him.
"What if something were to happen?" He casually asks.
Her forehead crinkles in confusion. "I'm never going to leave Janet for you. I've told you before, there is no us, Orlin."
"What if something were to happen to her?"
She glares at him. "Then I'd be alone."
"You know, Cass. I'm sure you meant well, but that only proves my point." She absently massaged her temples. Her headache had returned worse than before.
It was Cassandra's turn to pace the small room. "What point would that be exactly?" She challenged.
"That I'm responsible. Nobody else. Not the colonel. Not you. Not Orlin."
With an exasperated sigh she leaned into Sam's personal space and poked her in the chest. "I don't know how mom puts up with you."
Before Sam could reply, she forged ahead. "Orlin was given the task of shadowing Janet so she could...do what she's supposed to do."
"Jesus, Cassandra. Could you be any more cryptic?"
"Didn't you think it odd he asked what would you do if something were to happen to Janet?"
The proverbial light bulb went off. "That sonofabitch! He wasn't talking about me leaving her." Her blood thudded in her ears as her blood pressured skyrocketed.
"No. He was testing you and he obviously didn't believe you wanted to be alone if something were to take Janet away from you."
"I'm gonna kill that fucking bastard!" That said, she willed her heart rate and blood pressure back to normal parameters. The major now had someone to focus all her anger on and when she had Orlin in her sights she would not be responsible for her actions.
The older woman walked to the dresser and picked up the photograph of the three of them taken long ago on camping trip. A myriad of emotions crossed her lined face. They were so happy then, a real family. She smiled at the memories. She replaced the photograph and turned to face the younger woman.
Sam deserved to know the truth. She turned back to face her mother. "Sit down, Sam." There would be no turning back now.
Sam audibly swallowed and sat on her bed. "I'm listening."
"Orlin may have had purely personal reasons for not intervening on P3X-666, but the repercussions will prove catastrophic for humanity."
"So now we get to Janet's role in history." Sam was not sure she wanted to know after all. Would she still have a place at Janet's side, or would the doctor move on without her?
As if reading her thoughts she stated, "The only reason Janet seems to be the center of conversation is because you are still alive."
"I'm not following you Cass."
"You both are vital to the continued existence of humanity."
Sam released a nervous chuckle. "Janet discovers the cure for a plague I bring back through the gate?"
"I think it's best if I just show you." Cassandra knelt at Sam's feet and took her hands in her own. "We're about to take another trip, Sam. This one's gonna knock your socks off."
Janet is sleeping in a hospital bed and Sam is sitting on a chair by her side. The blonde is holding the smaller hand in hers and reading a magazine.
Janet stirs and Sam quickly sits on the bed. "Hey there, beautiful." She leans in to place a kiss on her lover's lips. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine, honey. You worry too much." She looks out the window to see the first rays of the morning shine through the crack in the curtains. It was completely dark when she dozed off. "I'm sorry I fell asleep on you."
The small hand is lifted to the blonde's lips and a soft kiss caresses her knuckles. "That's okay, I think you earned the rest." Sam shifts her weight and leans across the brunette and intently stares at the bundle of blankets resting in the crook of Janet's left arm.
"Looks like she couldn't stay awake either."
Sam places her little finger in the tiny hand and she reflexively squeezes the digit. "She's strong," Sam laughs quietly. "My God, Janet. She is so beautiful." The blonde looks to her lover with tears trailing down her cheeks. "She looks just like you, sweetheart."
"Maybe," Janet concedes as she wipes her lover's cheek with the pad of her thumb. "But she didn't get the blonde curls and blue eyes from my side of the family." The petite woman places her right hand around the back of Sam's neck and pulls her down for a passionate kiss. "Thank you for giving me this wonderful gift, honey." Janet claims her lover's mouth once again.
Cassandra lightly touched the younger woman's forehead and wiped at the stray blonde hairs resting there. Jolted by the soft touch, Sam slowly opened her eyes moist with unshed tears.
"Janet...she...we...we have a...a baby?" She searched the older woman's face for confirmation and when she saw the huge grin she knew that Janet had indeed had 'her' baby. "How is this possible? I mean...Janet can't have children."
"You're questioning how Janet can physically have a baby and not how you, as a woman, can impregnate her?" Cassandra shook her head in disbelief. "Amazing."
She let the sarcasm pass. There were so many questions Sam wanted to ask about the baby, she couldn't decide which to ask first. "What's her name?"
Cassandra crossed her arms over her chest in a classic Fraiser move and grinned. "Her name will be Alexandra Grace Fraiser-Carter."
"Grace?" Her voice cracked and her face lost all color.
"That's right, Sam. Alexandra Grace." Her facial muscles twitched and the happy smile was replaced by a curious frown. "Why?"
"Oh my God!" Her head reeled with the implications. "When I was abandoned on the Prometheus, I had this recurring vision of a little girl. I thought she represented different parts of my psyche, but now I wonder who she really was. I called her Grace and now that I think about it she looked like a mini blue-eyed Janet. It can't be a coincidence."
"You think your daughter came to you in a vision before she was born?" Her eyes widened in surprise; she wondered what else she hadn't been privy to as a teenager.
"I don't know what to think anymore, but I do know that I would have died on that ship if it hadn't been for Grace." Sam wished she had paid more attention to the little girl on the Prometheus, but her closed head injury prevented her from thinking clearly at the time.
"Perhaps Janet isn't the only one with a guardian angel." That revelation should have given Cassandra reason to celebrate, but it did not. If there were more than one extraneous factor stirring the pot, then it would be impossible to contain all the repercussions of unknown elements. A shiver rippled up her spine at the thought.
Beginning to realize the enormity of this revelation, Sam tried to tie all the loose ends together and come up with a plausible working hypothesis. "I'm guessing that neither Janet nor I actually have anything to do with preventing the Goa'uld from defeating Earth's forces." A wide smile graced her pale features. "Other than having my baby, of course." Her pale complexion turned a light shade of crimson as she thought about Janet...and conceiving a baby.
"So how do we...um...how does Janet have my baby?" Some things were best not discussed with one's daughter, but Sam didn't have a choice.
"The old fashioned way, Sam." When her mother turned six shades of red, Cassandra threw her head back and laughed. When the laughter finally subsided, she added, "With a little help from an unexpected source."
"That's it? You're not going to tell me how?" Sam asked incredulously.
She crossed her arms over her chest and leveled Sam with a no-nonsense stare telling the blonde she would get no more information.
"Okay, it doesn't matter. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I really don't care because Janet is going to have MY baby." The major thumped her chest as any proud parent would. "Do you have any idea how much this is going to mean to your mother?"
Janet's life was very well-rounded; she was an accomplished physician, Air Force officer, and life partner, but Sam knew she had always wanted to have children of her own. Cassie was Janet's child in every way and she loved her unconditionally, but she hadn't carried or birthed her. Sam felt chagrined with these thoughts and hoped Cassandra didn't feel like she was second best.
The blonde major may be very experienced at hiding her feelings, but to her daughter who had lived with her long enough to read her very visible emotions playing across her face, she was an open book.
A weathered hand caressed the blonde's cheek. "Don't worry, Sam. I know Janet loves me with all her heart. I couldn't have asked for more loving parents to care for me after my own were killed."
"I know you can't tell me specifics about the future, but can I tell Janet she's going to be a mother?"
"You have to get her back first, Sam. Let's just take one step at a time, shall we?"
"You don't want me to tell her, do you?"
"It's not that." She stood and walked to the far side of the cramped room. "I don't want to give her false hope in case things don't turn out well." She turned to Sam and smiled weakly. "There's no sense in disappointing her." She knew she wasn't playing fair, but Sam would not want to hurt Janet anymore than absolutely necessary.
She knew Cassandra was right; she would keep her knowledge secret.
"Sam, there is something else." She returned to Sam's side and sat on the bed next to her surrogate mother. "First, I will not tell you the importance the infant plays in history." A small wrinkled hand touched the blonde's chest in an attempt to silence the question hovering on her lips. "Secondly, it is imperative that you understand while the baby will bring untold joy to both you and Janet, she will also be the source of unimaginable grief."
"We've survived you so far, Cass. Can't be that bad." Her lips curved in a smile, but her facial muscles quivered as she tried to a project false bravado. "But she subverts and survives the Goa'uld attack?" She needed to know their daughter would fulfill her destiny without succumbing to death.
After an almost imperceptible hesitation, Cassandra answered. "Yes. Alex survives."
"And you refuse to tell me what happens?"
"I emphatically refuse to tell you, Sam. There is no room for debate."
With that said, the older woman brushed blonde bangs off her forehead and pushed her back on the bed. Before the major was fully reclined, she was fast asleep. Cassandra drew the warm covers up to her neck and leaned down to place a kiss on her mother's cheek.
"Rest now, mother," she whispered. "You will awaken rejuvenated and ready to begin your part of this journey." She placed another soft kiss to her cheek and then slowly walked away from the bed, disappearing in a thin mist that suddenly appeared. Two words were whispered and echoed off the unitarian walls...forgive me.
The room was pitch black when she opened her eyes. Sam automatically reached to the bedside table and clicked on the light, illuminating the room in a yellowish glow. She was disappointed that Cassandra was gone and any fleeting thoughts of her daughter being a figment of her imagination were erased as she spied the zat, a medical bag, and a change of clothes resting at the foot of her bed.
After a quick trip to the bathroom, the tall blonde inspected her gifts and then donned the off world uniform and holstered the zat to her right thigh. Her transformation complete, she removed the slip of paper from her night stand and memorized the seven symbols traced in a neat script before placing it in a vest pocket.
Since Cassandra had supplied her with the means to execute her escape it was up to Sam herself to devise the actual attempt. Thinking that simple was better, she called to the guards and when that failed to get a response, she started kicking the door.
Her door cracked open and a stern face appeared around the door jam. "Major, what is it?" He asked curtly.
He casually stood with his weight shifted to his right leg. His mistake, he should not have misjudged her need for escape and Sam took the opportunity to knock him off balance. With a quick move, she shoved her shoulder into the door and smashed his knee into the frame and then before he could react, she zatted him and deftly stepped over his crumpled form and then took out his partner with the same precise aim.
The base was empty and quite. Sam knew there were no teams off world right now and she would have a good chance of making it to the Control Room undetected. Once she was there, however, she would have to subdue the officer stationed at the controls.
She glanced at the zat wrapped in her right hand and down at the two SF's sprawled unconscious at her feet. She had already assaulted fellow officers; one or two more would hardly make a difference in her court martial. Carter could not allow those thoughts to deter her from her main objective...get to the gate and jump to the coordinates Cassandra had provided.
She quickly and efficiently grabbed the nearest guard under his arms and dragged him into her quarters. After repeating the process with the other man, she rummaged through the medical bag and retrieved two sedative syringes. The blonde major methodically injected each man with enough medicine to keep them sleeping like babies while she mastered her escape. She hoped Cassandra had the correct dosage to sedate them without causing harm. Janet would never forgive her if she had inadvertently hurt or killed someone in her attempt to save her.
Attired in her normal gear for off world excursions except for the heavy P90, the tall woman firmly griped the zat and held it outstretched in front of her as she stealthily traversed the distance to the Control Room. Just as she had suspected, the dim halls were empty and she easily reached her target. Silent footfalls padded up the stairs and she chanced a quick glance around the door jam. Lieutenant Simmons sat in front of the main control panel, shoulders squared and back ramrod straight. He stared intently through the window down to the inactive gate.
His appearance would have amused the major on any other occasion, but his unwavering attention to protocol only served to fuel her anger. Military protocol had prevented the doctor's rescue. The major certainly could appreciate the need to adhere to standards most of the time, however, nothing in the universe was constant and the thought that a set of protocols applied to every conceivable variable was absurd at best. SG-1 had broken more regulations than all the other teams combined, and a staff weapon blast to the chest was not necessarily a death sentence. Sam had lost count how many times she or the guys had been killed only to return to the living yet again.
Yet her teammates...her friends...had failed to support her plan to rescue their abandoned fellow officer. Their inaction hurt Carter more than their acceptance of her belief the fallen doctor had survived the attack. Without question, Janet should have been returned home, dead or alive.
Sam quickly glanced around the corner and certain she had not been detected, stepped lightly into the room and zatted the lieutenant before he could sense her presence. The young man convulsed as the charge hit him in the back and then he slumped to the left and slid out of the chair to land unconscious on the cold floor of the Control Room.
The major quickly entered the coordinates and left the room in a dead run. She reached the gate as the final chevron locked and the wormhole exploded open. She adjusted her vest and holstered the zat to her right thigh. Without looking back, Sam Carter stepped onto the gunmetal ramp, but before she reached the swirling blue liquid, the wormhole winked out of existence.
Blonde curls whipped around as blue ice searched the area above the Gate Room.
Colonel O'Neill stood at the controls and leaned down to the microphone.
"What the HELL are you doing, Carter?" He need not have bothered to use the microphone...downtown Colorado Springs probably heard the bellow.
"Open the damn gate!" She shouted back.
He shook his head. "Not gonna happen." He wondered how she had managed to get past the SF's guarding her quarters, but then again this was Sam Carter.
The door to the Gate Room slid open and Teal'c entered carrying his staff weapon. She shifted her gaze between the two men and noticed that Daniel now stood at the colonel's side.
"Are you gonna shoot me, Teal'c?" She challenged.
"I am not." The big man simply replied and shifted the weapon so the hilt was resting on the floor. His deep brown eyes revealed the hurt her words had inflicted.
Steel blue eyes soften at the distressed look on the Jaffa's normally implacable face. A testament that she was not the only one feeling out of control.
"I'm sorry, Teal'c. I didn't mean to imply you would hurt me." She ran a shaky hand through unruly blonde curls and momentarily closed her eyes. She was tired of wasting time. Tired and teetering over the edge. Bright cerulean eyes meet dark brown. "But I am going through that gate."
The large man didn't move. He just stared at the major.
"We both know I didn't come this far to turn tail and walk away."
The bald man inclined his head and smiled. He knew that would be her answer.
She eyed her friend suspiciously. What the hell? Was he testing her resolve?
Suddenly the air crackled and Sam felt the fine blonde hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stand on end. Teal'c leveled his staff weapon and pointed it towards a distortion shimmering just in front of the inactive gate. Sam quickly moved in front of the big man and lowered his weapon.
The distorted field wavered and Cassandra Fraiser-Carter stood in its wake.
"Holy shit!" Daniel blinked once and removed his wire frames. After thoroughly rubbing his blue eyes with the heels of his hands he placed his glasses back on his nose and over his ears.
O'Neill furrowed his brow. "It can't be." He turned to Daniel. "Can it?"
The linguist was at a loss for words. "Holy shit," he repeated.
She was exactly how Daniel had remembered. A previous mission had gone inexplicably wrong and SG-1 had found themselves trapped in the past. Their attempt to return to their own timeline overshot the team well into the future and Cassandra was waiting for them. She possessed technology to control the gate and sent them back where they belonged. She refused to answer Sam's questions then, citing time paradox. What was the older woman doing here now?
As if his thoughts were transparent, Cassandra raised her arms and the gate shimmered to life. Daniel nervously licked his dry lips and his eyebrows disappeared behind his bangs.
"Don't say it, Daniel," the colonel warned him.
Carter closed the distance to stand before the swirling blue liquid and beside the older woman. Words could not express her feelings, so the major pulled Cassandra into an embrace and hugged her tight.
"Good luck, Samantha," she whispered.
"I told you once before, I'm not coming home without her."
In the Control Room high above the Stargate, O'Neill frantically tried to disengage the wormhole. "Help me, Daniel. The damn thing won't turn off." His hands hesitated over the controls, not sure which ones exactly to hit.
"Close the iris, Jack. She's going to get away."
Both men reached to engage the protective barrier, but O'Neill was closer and he triumphantly slapped his hand over the sensor.
His smirk fell as the wormhole remained fixed in place.
"Did you get it right? Try again." Daniel implored.
The colonel rolled his eyes. "Of course, I did." He looked below and indicated the woman standing in front of the gate. "I think she has something to do with it."
Mother and daughter said their last goodbyes and as Sam turned to step into the wormhole a big hand curled around her elbow.
The blonde stared at the large fingers wrapped around her left arm and then into dark brown eyes. "Teal'c, please. I need to do this. Janet doesn't have much time."
Teal'c spoke softly. "I will accompany you, MajorCarter." Once he had realized her intention to go alone, he did not hesitate to offer his aid.
The corners of her drawn face turned into a grateful smile. "Thanks, Teal'c. I could use the help."
Without turning back, the determined major slid through the event horizon with the big man hot on her heels.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud!" Reverberated throughout the Gate Room.
The gate blinked out of existence and Cassandra turned her head to address the men gawking out the window of the Control Room. "Gentlemen, I need to speak with you."
Aboard a Goa'uld mothership. Four days ago.
Once the heavy doors closed behind the young doctor, she surveyed the cavernous room and stumbled to the nearest chair before her rubber legs threatened to dump her onto the floor. The room, which was much larger than the entire first floor of her home, was divided into several living areas. She wondered why one person, Goa'uld or not, would need so much space.
Elliot quietly excused himself and then quickly disappeared to Janet's left. He returned a few moments later carrying a glass of water and offered it to the distraught woman. Slim fingers wrapped around the crystal and she weakly smiled her thanks for his kind gesture.
The cool liquid quenched her thirst, but nothing could help the fire burning in her gut. The raging inferno threatened to brand her soul and leave her exposed and scorched, psychologically reduced to ash and then disbursed until nothing recognizable remained.
She fought to maintain control over her emotions, but finally unable to contain her distress any longer, she released all the anguish bottled inside. It wasn't a demonstrative display of loss of control, but rather one of letting down her guard and giving herself permission to feel lost and alone.
The doctor in Janet was used to feeling detached, it was the only way to deal with the many horrible things she had seen as a physician and remain sane. Later, sometimes much later, alone in her office or safely ensconced in Sam's loving embrace, she would release her pressure valve and move on.
But far from home and terrified beyond reason, she could not hide behind her white lab coat and medical degree and pretend she was impervious to the pain. Not this time. This time she was the victim and no amount of indifference could mask the suffering brewing just below the surface, ready to erupt in an uncharacteristic expression of vulnerability.
She did not like feeling exposed and weak, they were emotions foreign to her being. Janet Fraiser had relied on her strength of character and determination to overcome many obstacles in her life...her overbearing father, chauvinistic ex-husband, and bigoted military code of ethics.
She'd be damned if she gave in now.
With renewed hope, a small sigh escaped her lips as she closed her eyes and leaned back against the high-backed chair. Her last energy reserves were spent and the welcoming softness hugged the smooth curves of her lithe figure as she sunk deeper into the plush cushions.
After a respectable moment of silence, a warm hand lightly stroked the young woman's forearm and brown eyes slowly focused on a very concerned Elliot kneeling at her small feet dangling from the oversized chair.
"Dr. Fraiser, I promise you I will get you back home." The deep resonant voice of Lantash startled the brunette. "I know what it feels like to lose the love of your life."
Haunted cerulean pools reflected the truth behind his words. She hoped he was referring to Jolinar and not her Sam.
She hadn't expected Lantash to come forward. His sincerity touched her deeply and it was almost enough to convince her he could do just that, but the reality of her situation prohibited her from really believing the young man, ancient symbiote or not.
Janet had never considered herself much of a pessimist, always looking on the bright side of any calamity, but after enduring what was most assuredly the worst day of her life, she now ascribed to the realism theory, and realistically speaking, Janet didn't think she had a slim chance in hell to make it back home.
She was a prisoner aboard a Goa'uld ship surrounded by an army of Jaffa and the only thing that stood in her way of totally breaking down was the puppy-dog expression of the young man crouched before her willing to do anything to get her back home and back to Sam.
She made a mental note to rethink the whole Lantash lost love attraction he was so conspicuously harboring for her lover.
"I want to believe you." Brown eyes searched the implacable features of the young man.
The stoic expression of a much older man turned on her and the doctor wondered if she would ever be able to separate the two any more. The longer she spent in their company, the harder it became to discern between symbiote and host.
"But, right now, I'm having a hard time processing these last few hours." She bent her head and a tanned hand massaged her throbbing forehead.
Just yesterday, Janet had spent a very leisurely morning cuddled beside Sam in their warm bed unobtrusively watching her lover sleep as the first rays of the morning sunlight filtered through the sheer curtains and highlighted blonde sleep-tossed hair.
Now she wondered if she would ever see her lover again.
As if reading her thoughts, Elliot tried to reassure the dejected woman. "I know you feel alone and overwhelmed, but we'll think of something."
He stood and walked over to the cabinet built into the near wall and after pressing a triangular brass button, a recessed drawer opened. He removed a solid gray sphere, which fit neatly into the palm of his hand, and presented it to Janet.
A thin brown eyebrow lifted in curiosity, and Elliot realized the doctor didn't recognize the object.
"Have you ever seen one of these before?" He asked.
Janet reached for the small round ball and lightly trailed her fingertips across the hard surface. Expecting to feel cold metal, she was surprised when her warm skin met an even warmer surface that emitted a faint vibration.
Her curiosity piqued, she asked, "What is it?"
The young man dipped his chin and spoke in the distinctive baritone of Lantash. "This is a long range communications device. I can use it to contact the Tok'ra and request assistance."
"Why haven't you used it to contact them before?" She was stunned to learn that he had not used it to inform the Tok'ra of his survival and request immediate extraction.
"Using this device is not risk free and I have not had the need to do so until now."
Didn't have the need? The brunette wondered why he had preferred to stay incognito. There was definitely more going on here and she intended to find the answers.
"But you think the Tok'ra would be willing to help you...us now? You've been gone for almost a year. Will they believe it's really you and not some plot to subvert their ranks?"
"I believe once Jacob Carter discovers you are with me, he will do everything in his power to assure the safe return of his daughter's lover." Lantash smiled, it was forced, but a smile nonetheless.
Janet guessed there was a first time for everything, but the gesture did not reassure the young woman as it was no doubt intended, and the deliberate twist of an answer was not lost on her either. She elected to allow the tactic to pass for now, there would be plenty of time to get the truth from him.
Lantash had, however, spoken the truth about Jacob. Janet wondered if Sam's father would be able to return to Earth to comfort and support her. More times than not, he was unable to be with his daughter when she needed him the most.
The Carters had grown closer over time and Jacob had eventually come to accept his only daughter's relationship with another woman, but Janet doubted he would have been so easy to win over had Selmac not been in the background whispering words of wisdom to his normally deaf ears.
General Carter was a stickler for military regulations and the doctor knew a homosexual relationship certainly wasn't what he would have wanted for his daughter as she was on the fast track and quickly climbing the ranks of the Air Force.
When she had first started dating the younger Carter, Janet had serious concerns that her lover would not go against her father's wishes since she had spent a great deal of her life trying to please him and live up to his high expectations.
Pleasantly surprised, Janet looked on with pride as Sam had adamantly stood her ground and told her father in no uncertain terms that she was in love and wanted to spend the rest of her life with the young doctor. He could take it or leave it, she really didn't give a damn if that meant being estranged from her father again, or even quitting the service if necessary.
Sam had also informed her father that Janet was what she had been searching for, and now that she found the love of her life, she would not let her go. Jacob had recognized the truth behind her words reflected in her sharp speech and the steel set of her narrow jaw. He had realized the ultimatum was genuine and instead of alienating his daughter, he had decided to tolerate the love affair. He had secretly hoped his daughter would come to her senses; however, over time the beautiful young doctor had captivated the older man and he found himself mesmerized by her charms. Instead of losing a daughter, he had gained another.
The sentiment went both ways. Janet wasn't very close to her own father and her career choice had taken her away from her family more than she had liked. Jacob Carter not only served as Sam's father, but a pleasant surrogate replacement for her own strained relationship.
Yes, she would have to agree with Lantash. Jacob would move heaven and earth for his daughters, but would help arrive in time?
Her pounding headache was back with a vengeance. She hadn't eaten in many hours and the doctor in her screamed at her to take better care of herself.
"Do you have anything to eat?" She asked. She doubted she would be able to eat anything, but she would have to try to keep up her strength.
"Forgive me, Doctor. I will prepare some nourishment."
Before he reached the other side of the room, Janet spoke. "Don't you have a lotar?" Not that she liked the idea of Lantash employing the help of a slave.
"I do, but only for appearances. He is not aboard the ship." At Janet's curious glance, he continued. "Kiernen remained on the planet. I don't always travel with him, and his absence is not suspicious since I am only a minor Goa'uld and not System Lord."
"On the planet?" A sinking feeling began in the pit of her stomach. "Why do I have a feeling we'll be visiting him soon?" The diminutive figure groaned.
"Your assumption is correct, Doctor. We will be there within 48 hours." He now stood before the young woman. "There is much to discuss and our time is short, but right now be comforted in the knowledge that we possess the means with which to escape."
He left her with her thoughts as he excused himself to begin preparations for their meal. She was so tired. Apparently the sarcophagus hadn't healed her emotional exhaustion. All she wanted to do was crawl into her big warm bed wrapped safely in the arms of her lover. Sam's strong embrace had always chased her fears away. Soon her eyelids became too heavy to stay open and she quickly succumbed to sleep.
Her unconscious mind immediately summoned a safe environment as the exhausted young woman dreamed of being home. She had been playing hide and seek with Sam and Cassie. The youngster was quick to pick up the game once Sam had explained the rules, and even quicker at concealing her smaller body into the most inconspicuous of hiding spots.
They had been searching for their daughter for ten minutes without avail, when the brunette was grabbed from behind and yanked behind the large oak tree. A giggle erupted from between her lips as Sam spun her around to bring them face to face. Strong hands began to map the curvaceous terrain which initially turned the giggle into laughter, but once the caress changed in intensity, a moan issued from deep within the brunette's throat. The blonde quickly captured her lover's soft lips and swallowed the second moan as Janet melted into her touch.
"We're supposed to be looking for Cassie," the brunette mumbled as her taller companion moved to her neck and then her right earlobe disappeared as Sam bit and sucked the tender flesh into her wet mouth.
"Mmm." Moist lips released Janet's earlobe and mapped a course straight to a very inviting mouth. Once Sam reached her destination, she slowly licked a pouting lower lip and then entered her mouth to explore the soft moist flesh waiting for her. Deft fingers slid beneath Janet's shirt and marked a path across her bare stomach and over her ribs, causing the brunette to squirm under the touch.
Smaller hands grasped and stilled the larger ones as they expertly cupped the swell of Janet's breasts and gently massaged them through the silk barrier. "As much as I'd like you to take me right here, I think we'd better stop before Cassie decides to come looking for us."
No sooner had the two women separated when they heard the distinct voice of their daughter calling to them.
They stepped from behind the big tree and watched as the youngster ran towards them.
"Mo-om," the young girl whined. "Why didn't you come and find me?" Cassie turned to Sam. "And why are you here with mom? You know you should have split up to look for me. It would have been more efficient that way."
Janet raised her eyebrows and smirked at her partner. "Yep, she's your daughter all right."
Sam rolled her eyes and lightly swatted the brunette's ass. "Come on, Jan. It's your turn to hide." The blonde covered her eyes and slowly began to count. "One Mississippi...two Mississippi..."
She turned around and peaked through her fingers. Cassie had already fled, but Janet stood fixed to her spot next to Sam. "Honey, don't just stand there. Go on now, and find a better place this time," she admonished. "It only took me two minutes to find you the last time."
Janet flashed dark eyes at her lover and husked, "That's because I wanted to be found, Sammy."
Blonde eye brows wiggled suggestively and then she covered her eyes once again and resumed the count. "Three Mississippi..."
The smaller woman laughed and then turned away from her playful lover, already intent on finding the perfect hiding place. "Find a better hiding spot my ass," she mumbled.
The tree line on the other side of the meadow looked appealing so she headed in that direction at a brisk pace. Janet wanted to find a more secluded area so Cassie wouldn't interrupt them so quickly this time.
The honeymoon phase of her relationship with the beautiful blue eyed blonde was in full swing and there wasn't enough time in the day to accommodate their hunger for each other. Janet knew it would be hard to work around both of their demanding jobs, but sometimes the time apart was almost too much to endure. Free days were few and far between, so she decided to enjoy this day playing with Sam and their adopted daughter and worry about finding more time with each other later.
The constant orchestra of chirping birds, croaking frogs, and swirling windblown leaves suddenly drew silent. Alerted by the silence, the brunette tipped her head skyward and squinted into the bright sunlight. In a surreal kind of bizarre slow motion fast forward movement the sun quickly disappeared behind a fast moving bank of dark clouds to cast an ominous shadow below.
An eerie stillness settled over the area and the resulting calm intensified the instant feeling of isolation bearing down on the small woman. Panicking, the doctor scanned the meadow, but neither Sam nor Cassie were anywhere to be found.
"Sam!" She screamed. "SAM! Where are you?"
She frantically searched the desolate meadow, but Janet was all alone.
Faint at first, just enough to deceive straining ears, a murmur carried on a light breeze as it suddenly swirled around the frightened woman. The pitch gradually increased until a small voice carried on the wind.
"Don't worry, baby. I'll always find you."
She woke with a start, the haze of the unsettling nightmare slow to lift. Scanning the room, the extent of her nightmare hit home. "I think I've found the perfect hiding place."
Several hours later, Lantash and Janet settled down to discuss their situation. Specifically, where they were going and why.
Janet picked at the steamed fish and vegetables Lantash had prepared for them. She hadn't eaten so much as rearranged the food on her plate.
"Where are we going?" The doctor asked.
"Our destination is not as important as to who and what will be there waiting for us."
The Tok'ra sighed and leaned back in his chair. He regarded the young woman sitting so calmly across from him. Janet Fraiser was tough as nails, no doubt about that, but how would she react once they arrived on the planet to witness the atrocities first hand?
Time for a little fishing expedition. Lantash needed to assess how much of a threat the doctor would pose, and more importantly, how great that threat would be perceived.
"I know Hathor breached the SGC security and entered the base. Other than that incident, have you met any other Goa'uld?"
Blue eyes stared intently at the brunette. "Think very carefully, Doctor. Elliot was not privy to sensitive information and I have been very removed since Martouf's death. My subsequent hibernation with the Tok'ra while I healed and waited for another host and then the past year hiding within the enemy's ranks have left me in the dark."
She sighed. Had she met any other Goa'uld? Too many to count.
She mentally ticked the false gods on her fingers and then recited the names like a child's nursery rhyme. A very deadly nursery rhyme. "Apophis, Kronos, Nirrti, Yu..." She stopped when Lantash visibly flinched at Nirrti's name.
"Nirrti," he repeated. "You have come in contact with her?" His blue eyes dilated and a thin sheen of sweat formed on his forehead.
"Unfortunately, yes. She was the Goa'uld responsible for murdering the people of Hanka. Cassie was the only survivor." Smooth lips curled and the resulting sneer appeared oddly macabre on the usually soft features.
The brunette continued. "Years later she used a cloaking device to gain entrance to the base and tried to attack Cassie. I'm not sure exactly what she wanted with her, but it had to do with the experiments she had conducted on Hanka."
The memory had left a bad taste in her mouth. How close had she come to losing her daughter that day, either by Nirrti's hand or from the illness the doctor was so helpless to cure?
Janet had taken matters in her own hands when Nirrti refused to help her understand and perhaps combat the burning illness raging against the teenager's immune system. Only Sam's plea to stop had stilled her finger poised and ready to pull the trigger of her service revolver.
Nirrti was given reprieve when General Hammond had struck a deal with the Goa'uld. She could either cure the youngster or he would allow Fraiser to shoot her. Luckily, she had not called his bluff.
Nirrti was not pleased to be manipulated by the Tau'ri, but chose to fight another day. As she stepped through the wormhole and her freedom, she secretly vowed to destroy them for their insolence.
"I held a gun to that bitch and almost blew her head off." Sad brown eyes implored the man to understand what that had cost her as a physician. "I took an oath to do no harm and I easily could have killed her. I hate her for that more than anything else."
Well now, wasn't this going to be a treat? How to explain to the young woman she was about to meet the monster not only responsible for genocide and manipulating her daughter's genes, but the root of causing the doctor to question her own moral ethical code.
Martouf had taught him that the direct approach was usually best. "There is no easy way to say this, Doctor. I have been working under the guise as a minor Goa'uld in the service of Nirrti."
"Nirrti?" She repeated. How could that be? "I thought Nirrti was dead."
Lantash shook his head. "Her Jaffa were allowed to leave with her body. The inhabitants didn't know she had a sarcophagus at her disposal."
Cradling her head in her arms, she groaned, "Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse." When she raised her head, disbelief was written all over her soft features. "No wonder they think she's a God."
The brunette shuddered as she thought about being trapped in the same sarcophagus as the Goa'uld. Brown bangs fell across her forehead as she shook her head. "Jesus, she has more lives than an alley cat. And they call me the energizer bunny."
She eyed her plate of uneaten food and suddenly pushed it away. Any appetite she might have had was now thoroughly gone. If fact, she had to swallow twice to choke back the nausea which churned at the immediate mention of Nirrti's name.
"Oh, she's gonna love to see me again." A nervous chuckle escaped her lips. "I guess I should have killed her when I had the chance. Ethics be damned."
An imperceptible variance in speed, at least to the doctor, caused Lantash to swallow his retort. "Our velocity has increased. If you will excuse me, I need to ascertain the reason Lomar altered our plotted course without my direct order."
She couldn't help feeling like she was just dismissed as an inconsequential nuisance. The abrupt change between Lantash and Elliot was unnerving at times, but this change in demeanor was different. Lantash's barely controlled rage upset her more now than ever. The petite doctor wanted to attribute his shifting emotions on increased stress, but an eerie tingle at the back of her mind refused to accept that excuse.
She could now understand O'Neill's feelings of reticence and discord towards any Goa'uld. It must be very difficult for a Tok'ra to suppress the natural egotistical nature of the symbiote. She knew the Tok'ra refused to accept that they were in any way similar to their Goa'uld counterparts, but after being in Lantash's company these last few hours, she would have to adamantly disagree. Lantash was just as short tempered and egocentric as the next Goa'uld. The Tok'ra may hide their inherent tendencies, but they still existed just below the surface.
But Sam had trusted Martouf and Lantash. Janet would trust Lantash until he gave her reason otherwise. Elliot? She hardly knew the young man and she doubted he would be the same since his joining with the symbiote.
Dark blue eyes flashed and narrowed in anger as he leaped from the chair and quickly crossed the room, blue robes fluttered and trailed behind the retreating figure.
Janet repressed a shudder as she locked eyes with Lantash. The inhuman gaze had frightened her and served as a reminder that she was far from home and alone among monsters.
A seething Lantash entered the peltak and found the First Prime standing ramrod straight at the main control panel.
Lomar heard the doors open. "My Lord Faunus," he dipped his head in acknowledgment.
"What is the meaning of the course correction?" He demanded after studying the panel. The change in direction and speed set the ship on a direct course for Mengal.
"We have received a communiqué and our Goddess commands that we return immediately and with haste."
Blue eyes flashed in anger once again. "Why was I not informed at once?"
"You were," Lomar openly leered and ran his tongue along his upper lip, "indisposed in your chambers with the Tau'ri female."
The masquerading Goa'uld inwardly reeled with the news. Had Nirrti found them out? Were they walking into a trap? Dizzy with unvoiced implications, he off-handedly dismissed the Jaffa to return to his chambers.
He needed to explain the situation in greater detail to Dr. Fraiser so they could formulate a plan of escape. He thought he had more time, time for the young woman to assimilate the information. He could only hope this summons was entirely independent of the doctor's presence aboard the ship.
If the determined mother had held a gun to Nirrti's head then, what type of retribution would the petite doctor face at the hands of a vengeful false-god? He feared for Janet's safety, her sanity, her life.
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