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"Hear you're finally getting sprung Carter."
Sam managed a weak smile and nodded. "Yes Sir."
"Well I have been given explicit orders by the General to kick your ass off base if I catch you here at all this weekend trying to tinker around in your lab."
"Don't worry Sir, I've seen enough of this base and its computer systems for awhile. All I want to do is go home right now."
He nodded, and his eyes softened as he reached out and clasped her shoulder. "It's good to have you back with us Carter. If you need anything ."
She smiled at his faintly awkward offer and nodded. "Thank you Sir." Then she looked around and noted Janet's conspicuous absence for the last couple of days.
"Sir have you seen Janet? I thought she would have been the one to sign off on my release.
His eyes became a little sad as he moved back and began fiddling with one of the monitors. "Yeah the Doc's been beating herself up pretty hard over almost pulling the plug. Don't think she's handling almost killing her best friend well. General suggested she take a little leave when she came in looking like hell yesterday morning, and she asked for a week to pull herself together. Guess even the Doc's human eh?"
Sam's eyes closed as guilt and pain swept through her. "Something we take for granted all too often," Sam whispered, heart broken for her friend. She could only imagine the emotional trauma Janet must have been silently enduring this past week.
"Yeah .she's one tough lady. Tougher than the rest of us," O'Neill admitted quietly. "But even the tough need a shoulder to cry on sometimes I guess. Maybe it's good you're getting sprung while she's on leave."
Sam nodded and slid off the bed and finished buttoning up her jacket. "I'll be sure to check on her."
She moved to exit the room and the Colonel grabbed her arm gently to stop her. "Sam," he said quietly and she stilled, looking up at him.
"Take the time to remind you BOTH that you're still alive. Life only gives us so many spare chances. Don't waste this one."
Sam swallowed hard, but held his gaze, searching his eyes deeply. She saw his pain: pain of his own personal losses, and his pain in knowing that she would never return his own deep affections for her. But she also saw understanding, acceptance, and support. She knew how hard this had been on him. Tears coming to her eyes, she willed them not to spill and nodded. "Thank you, Jack," whispered and he gave her a sad smile and let her arm go as she moved past him and towards the door.
Janet sat curled on her couch staring at the flames that slowly consumed the wood inside her fireplace. Her knees were drawn up under her chin and her arms were wrapped tightly around them. Despite the warmth in the room, she hadn't been able to shake the chill that had settle around her soul. She'd lost patients before. She'd been forced to make the tough calls countless times. She'd almost lost Sam a half dozen times already.
But she'd never been forced to make the call on someone she loved.
Her eyes closed and Janet shuddered violently as a few more errant tears escaped from her eyes.
There was a reason doctors were supposed to keep a distance from their patients. A reason why they shouldn't treat the ones they loved. And that had been one of the worst parts of the whole nightmare. If she'd been any other doctor, she would have let Sam go hours before. But she hadn't been able to. She hadn't been able to make that final call when she should have and she had been berating herself for not being strong. For not honoring Sam's final wishes. For letting her emotions effect her judgment. It had taken her hours to work up enough nerve to do what she was trained to do and her professional self had sighed in disappointment at her perceived failure of duty.
Only to find out that her hesitation had been Sam's saving. Those precious few hours had given them the time to figure out that Sam's beautiful and brilliant mind wasn't lost to them.
Guilt and self-doubt had set in quickly. Every time she was in Sam's room during her recovery Janet had been torn between wanting to gather the blonde in her arms and running and locking herself in her office. Her mind was screaming at her that she'd been weak for hesitating. But her heart was telling her she'd done the right thing and Sam was only alive because she'd listened to it. The battle between the two raged on even now, and Janet felt her careful constructed foundations begin to weaken and crumble.
A doctor had to be sure of their every move, their every action, their every call. Sometimes those choices weren't easy, and it took years and experience for one to develop a sense of when to fight and when to let go. A healer walked the fine line between life and death and they couldn't second guess themselves. She'd seen far too many colleagues who'd become devastated, ineffective and even a liability when they allowed self-doubt to enter their minds.
It was a disease as insidious as gangrene, and just as deadly.
She could not afford to second guess herself especially not at the SGC. Too many people were counting on her. Too many men and women who were the last line of defense against an enemy that was worse than anyone on earth could possibly imagine or even knew existed, depended on her to bring them back from the death. They looked to her to be strong. They needed to have faith in her abilities. They needed to know that she wouldn't hesitate when they needed her most. They needed her to be their rock, their foundation, and their shelter.
Up until last week, she'd been just that. And then she'd been faced with a decision she had been dreading for the last four years. A choice that she knew would take all her courage to make and yet, when the time came, her resolve had wavered. She tried to tell her it was to let Jack O'Neill come to terms with the inevitable to let him say his goodbyes to the woman he care for as much as she did. But the truth was, she didn't know if she had the courage to make the tough choices with Samantha Carter.
A soft knock at the door broke through her downward spiral of thoughts, and she lifted her head from where it was now resting on her knees. A glance at the clock told her it was late, and concerned that something had happened with Cassie's arranged sleepover for the next few days, Janet rose to her feet with a sigh.
Wiping her face dry, she ran a hand through her hair and walked to the door. Opening it, she was faced with the very woman that had captured and compromised her heart. "Sam," she whispered. The urge to flee was as strong as the need to feel those strong arms wrapped protectively around her.
Sam looked down at Janet and saw the anguish in the smaller woman's face and eyes. "Oh Jan .I'm so sorry sweetheart," she exhaled, as she reached for her and pulled her into a strong embrace.
It was obviously the right thing to do, because Janet clung to her, and a broken sob escaped her chest. They stood like that in the doorway for a few moments until the lights of a passing car broke through Sam's reverie. She squeezed Janet tightly, placed a kiss on the top of the head that was buried in her chest and then without letting go, began to steer them past the threshold so they could have some privacy. As soon as the door closed it seemed to be a signal for Janet to let go completely.
The smaller woman all but collapsed against Sam and Sam sank to the floor, pulling Janet into her lap and cradling the smaller body against her own as tears streaked down both of their cheeks. Janet clung to her, whispering "I'm so sorry," over and over again for long minutes.
Sam just held her and whispered words of reassurance and forgiveness to the woman that was breaking down in her arms. She'd never seen Janet so vulnerable, but everyone had their breaking point and Sam felt a wave of guilt rush over her that she was the cause of it.
"God Janet .I'm so sorry too sweetheart. This wasn't your fault it wasn't your fault Jan."
"I almost killed you," Janet sobbed.
"Shhhhhhhh. You were just doing what I wanted Jan. You couldn't have known .none of you could have until the General fired everything back up."
Janet's breath caught in her chest and she squeezed her eyes shut. "That's just it Sam ..I couldn't bring myself to do what you wanted. I couldn't make the call," she admitted in a pained whisper.
With instant clarity, Sam understood just how deeply Janet had been effected by this whole situation. The nightmare with Jonas Hanson had made Sam question her own convictions. She had hesitated, and after everything was said and done, she began to question whether or not she could make the split second call that could be the difference between life or death for her or her teammates. She had lost her center of balance and her faith in herself. Now Janet was suffering through the same dilemma. She had hesitated and now she didn't know if she could make the life or death choices that were a daily part of her job.
Cupping both hands along Janet's face she gently forced her to look back up at her. "Janet, look at me sweetheart. You should never have had to be in that position. If this were any other hospital you would have never been forced to make that call. This is what we do though and these are the sacrifices we make to be a part of the Stargate Program. All we have is each other, and there is not a single man or woman in that base that doubts your ability to make the right call. You have never given up on any of us without a fight. You might have hesitated, but you had every right to Jan. We've come through so many hopeless or seemingly unbeatable situations over the last few. There was no reason not to hope that this would be another one of those times. But I have no doubt Jan, that you would have had the courage to do what was right when the time was right."
Janet's eyes closed as she exhaled forcefully and then rested her head against Sam's shoulder, the sobs finally abating and her body finally relaxing. Sam kissed her temple and ran her hand in gentle circles along Janet's small back, easing the tension out of strong muscles. After awhile, Janet's breathing returned to normal, but she remained where she was, seemingly content with their closeness for the time being.
Sam continued to hold Janet close, her hands never stopping their gentle massage of Janet's back but occasionally wandering to her neck, shoulders and even her arms. When she felt Janet shiver in her arms Sam realized that it was considerably colder where they sat leaning against the front door. "Cold?" she whispered into Janet's hair.
"A little. And this can't be the most comfortable for you," Janet answered back, equally as soft, unwilling to ruin the peace of the moment.
"I would sit here with you all night if you needed Jan. But if you want, we can move over to the fire."
She eventually nodded and Sam got them both to their feet. Janet murmured that she wanted to freshen up a bit and Sam hugged her once before releasing her. As Janet headed up to her bathroom, Sam built the fire back up. Then she pulled several blankets and pillows out of the hall closet and made a cozy spot on the thick fur rug that decorated the plush carpet in front of the fire. Sam heard the shower turn on upstairs and decided that she would take the extra time to make Janet a small meal, because Sam knew she probably hadn't been taking good care of herself.
Opening the fridge she was relieved to see that at least Janet had been shopping recently for Cassie if anything else. By the time Janet came back down, Sam was settled amongst the small nest of blankets and pillows, her back against the couch and a couple of plates of food sitting on the ground next to her along with an opened bottle of wine and two glasses. Looking up, she gave Janet a tender smile and held out her hand for Janet to join her. When Janet moved to sit next to her, the blonde tugged her into her lap and wrapped one arm around slender shoulders as she reached for the plate of cut up cheese, deli meats, and crackers. "I figured you have been so busy focusing on me, you could probably use a little pampering yourself."
Janet felt her eyes water at the caring gesture and for the first time in days, actually felt like eating something. It wasn't long before she was moving on to the small plate of fruit that Sam had also cut up. By the time she was done and Sam placed the empty plates onto the coffee table which had been pushed aside, Janet was feeling more herself than she had all week.
Janet snuggled into Sam's embrace as they sipped their glasses of wine in comfortable silence and let their minds wander. Sam's free hand began to trace circles along Janet's back, and she closed her eyes and sighed softly at the feelings and emotions the simple gesture stirred within her. Setting their empty wine glasses aside, Janet curled back up against Sam and began to trace idle patterns along her collarbone. She heard the taller woman's breath catch and saw her pulse begin to race along the smooth column of her neck.
"I don't know what I would do if I ever lost you for good Sam," she breathed into the silence.
Sam's arms tightened around her once more and another kiss was pressed to her temple. "I wish I could promise you that nothing will ever happen to me Jan. But I can promise you this no matter what, I will fight with everything that I am to come back home to you."
Janet turned in Sam's embrace, straddling long legs, her hands settling on the blonde's shoulders as they gazed intently at each other. For than years they had been dancing around this. For longer than they could either remember, their friendship had been steadily deepening until one day they came to the realization that they had fallen in love with the other. They had moved into a level of comfort that transcended the boundaries of a normal friendship but it seemed they were content to leave things as they were because they both had too much to consider and too much to lose.
Until Janet had almost lost Sam and she realized how just how much precious time they'd squandered.
Sam's hand had settled on her waist, but one was inching its way higher. They simply looked deeply into each other's gaze, seeing everything that they had never said reflected back at them. But it still wasn't enough for Janet. Her hands slid up to cradle Sam's face, her thumb brushing lightly over a fine cheek bone. "I love you so much Samantha Carter," she declared in an emotional whisper.
She watched as blue eyes glistened, and Sam's lips lifted in happiness, and felt a weight lift from her soul. Strong hands tightened around her and Sam leaned in, pausing just before their lips met. "I can't even remember not loving you Janet."
A noise escaped Janet's throat as she closed the distance and their lips met in kiss full of love, longing, and reassurance. Lips parted, tongues danced, hands wandered, and their bodies pressed against each other as years of careful control slipped away leaving them raw and exposed to each other.
Sam leaned to the side, bringing Janet with her and then twisted until she was covering the smaller woman with her body, as they began pulling at each others clothing. The heat of the fire enveloped their bodies, golden shadows danced across long expanses of bare flesh, and skilled fingers and tongues raised the fine hairs along their skin as they remained wrapped in their intimate embrace. Their bodies slid and flexed against and into one another and the soft cries of their tender lovemaking filled the living room.
It was wetness, and heat. It was absolution and affirmation. It was love and forgiveness. It was healing and comfort. It was deeply spiritual and a homecoming years in the making.
They soared to the greatest heights of pleasure, and ignited in the flames of their passion before drifting back to earth, safe in the gentle embrace of the other.
Death and rebirth.
As hearts calmed, breathing slowed and time resumed, a new beginning rose out of the ashes of their old fears, guilt, and pain. Tears of joy, whispered words of love, and tender caresses were exchanged as this transformation of their relationship solidified into something real and tangible. Something that would take flight and cause them to soar once more.
It was with this knowledge that they fell into a deep and comforted sleep their bodies matching their souls- so tightly entwined that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.
The universe would conspire to bring them to ruin time and again it was the nature of their lives. But together, they would rise from the ashes, ready to face another new dawn.
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