Title: Tell me it's not real .
Disclaimer: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Seriously, the cast of SG1 belong to MGM and I'm only borrowing them for some free daydreaming that I wrote down. Equally, the Blood Brothers song I used as inspiration for this fic wasn't mine either .).
Fandom: Stargate SG1
Summary: What if 'Heroes' did happen, but we weren't the only ones watching Daniel's video camera?
Spoiler/Author's Notes: Heroes. This was what happened when I tried to fix 'Heroes'.
If it was possible to drift into a room whilst maintaining an air of focus and urgency, then Jack O'Neil had cracked it. The rest of his team were already settled, responding quickly when the P.A. system had issued the request for their presence, extracting Teal'c from the depths of meditation and Daniel and Sam from the depths of their latest research projects. Jack? Well, he'd been saved from a rather one sided sparring match with a Marine that Jack would be claiming was a draw due to his departure. The Marine? He would claim he was one move away from winning .
"Do we know why we're here?"
"No Sir. Could be anything."
"Indeed Major Carter."
"You up for a game of hoops later Teal'c?"
"What is 'hoops' Daniel Jackson?"
"Huh?" Daniel looked up, slightly startled at hearing his name, owing to still being rather absorbed in the portion of his research he had brought with him by mistake.
"Teal'c here would like you to explain a contemporary American cultural reference for him," explained Jack, showing a great deal of amusement at the fact that, after all this time, Teal'c still sought out Daniel for clarification on matters of cultural difference.
"What cultural reference would that be Teal'c?" asked Daniel, putting down his artefact and removing his glasses to clean them.
"The game of Hoops, Daniel Jackson."
Before Daniel could reply, General Hammond entered the room, complete with Sam Carter in dress uniform. Pausing at the head of the table, he motioned to all present to sit down, including the guest, who, on closer inspection, was sporting an injured hand. Clearing his throat, Hammond began to explain the situation.
"About 6 hours ago, I received a telephone call informing me that Major Carter was at Area 51 demanding to see me. When the guards refused to do anything other than try to restrain her, she punched two out cold, getting arrested."
"Sir? I was here " said Sam, looking harshly at her counterpart, as if trying to censor her for her unnecessary violence.
"I know you were Major, it was your counterpart trying to get my attention quickly. She succeeded."
"I'm sorry General, but I wished to not only see you but also get away from the quantum mirror before I could be caught by my Colonel O'Neil who was chasing me."
"I'm sorry? I was chasing you?"
"Yes Sir. You were trying to stop me escaping into a different reality. For once it was you trying to lecture me on the grandfather paradox, and not the other way around." The visiting Major tried to inject a slight note of humour in her remarks, but instead it just sounded weary, a fact that was noticed by all.
"But the grandfather paradox only applies with time loops within a single timeline. It has no bearing on alternate universes; instead, the issue is entropic cascade. Speaking of which, how long have you been here?" Everyone else in the room looked at each other with a slight degree of surprise as Sam calmly began a conversation with herself about the effects of quantum travel and the like, seemingly completely unaffected by the fact that she was talking to another version of herself. Despite how often this seemed to happen to SG1, for the rest of them this was something that they always found a little hard to get used to. For Sam, she was treating 'herself' as just another scientist. A stray thought crossed Jack's mind
"Hey, maybe it's because she's the only one not having major fantasies right now. Hmm, wonder how the Doc would react though."
for a fleeting second, before being rapidly quashed. He may have the sub-conscious fantasies of a pubescent teenager, but he had the mind and training of an officer, and such thoughts were out of place at least during the middle of a briefing . Refocusing his attention on the General, he tuned back into the meeting.
"Our visitor is here against the wishes of her command superiors, although Teal'c and Daniel in her universe assisted with her escape. The reasons for her visit, I understand, can be best explained by the footage on a video that she has brought with her. Before we see it, Major, would you care to explain to SG1 what you told me in my office?"
"Yes Sir." The visiting Major swallowed hard and, taking a deep breath, focused her gaze on the join in the glass directly behind Teal'c and began in a toneless, dispassionate voice, so unlike anything anyone except General Hammond had ever heard Samantha Carter use before.
"We were the subject of a documentary team who were making a film to show to 'people' to help display the reality of the functioning of the SGC. I don't know who was going to see it or who determined what the cameras saw, but it was a fairly extensive look and exposé, warts and all you could say.
The filming included the usual stuff you would imagine to be in it: a little guided tour of the complex, a shot of the gate opening and closing, zat practice etc, all of which was carefully planned and 'staged'. There was also an off world mission with SG1. We were supposed to show them a good planet, you know the type." As their visitor paused to take a glass of water, Jack interjected
"I know the one: trees as far as the eye could see apart from a large bald patch that had the Stargate plumb in the middle?"
"That sounds about right. Unfortunately, there was an unordered surprise gift - angry Jaffa."
"Which goa'uld did they allege to?" rumbled Teal'c.
"That is not of consequence Teal'c, and I don't think I could tell you if it was. When they saw us, they began firing and attacking. The film crew alternated between thinking that it was the end of the world and that they were in the middle of the greatest live action video game ever. Half of them didn't even think the staff blasts were real, instead thinking they were 'cool military special effects' and that this was laid on for their benefit."
"A most unwise assessment," was Teal'c's level response as the visitor again took a sip.
"They soon realised that this was something far more serious when they were dragged into cover whilst reinforcements were requested through the wormhole that hadn't closed yet. We had kept it open with an open radio channel when the attack began in order stop the Jaffa dialling out. Someone also requested a team of medics."
"Was that necessary?" asked Jack, reviewing the possible tactical merits of such a request so early in a battle.
The gaze was shifted and refocused on Jack, with ice blue eyes boring into him with such an intensity that it shook any smart comments he may have been thinking right out of his system.
"It became necessary when you were shot in the chest." The room descended into a deafening silence, with all present reacting to the startling news. After what seemed like an eternity, it was Sam that finally broke the silence, asking in a whisper that ripped through the silence like a tornado,
"But that isn't the bad news is it. What else happened? Who else was shot?"
As everyone looked at Sam in surprise, the visiting Carter stood up. As she stood, she pushed the video camera she had brought with her over to Sam.
"Watch the tape. It's on the tape." The hollowness of her voice and the complete lack of visible emotion on her face told Sam everything she suspected. She didn't need to watch the video camera footage to know who it was. There was only one person in the universe, any universe, who could affect Sam Carter enough to make her not react to Jack being shot in the chest. She didn't need to look at the tiny screen that was held by Daniel with Jack and Teal'c looking over his shoulder to know what they knew seconds later.
"Janet? Oh my god. No, that can't be right!" Daniel's panicked ramble triggered by the events that had unfolded before him was enough to trigger a response from both Sams. As the one from the alternate universe crumpled into a heap from a dead faint, Sam dived for the corner of the room just in time to lose her lunch to the trash can. As she knelt facing the wall, willing the heaving to stop, she heard the delayed reactions of her team mates.
"Why the hell was the Doc in the field? That's why we have medics for cryin' out loud!" was Jack's angry response, replete with a fist smashed into the table with enough force to upset his glass of water.
Daniel took off his glasses and looked to the ceiling shouting,
"Why don't you help her? You saved me from oblivion and I'm an archaeologist! Janet's a doctor .her life is helping people! Why wasn't she good enough for you when she's so much better than me?"
Teal'c said nothing, but slowly stood and moved to the broken visitor. Gathering her in his arms, he cradled her against his massive chest, soothing her tormented heart, giving her strength to rebuild her broken spirit. When the anger in the room had subsided, it was General Hammond who spoke quietly and carefully,
"Major Carter came to warn us against being caught up in any political power games that involved the wasting of life, and I agree with her. I don't know why my counterpart sent the CMO into an unknown battle situation. Whoever could have been saved by having her expertise there was not important enough to justify her death. I have always felt that a CMO can never be too highly valued, and Janet Fraiser is valued by me and all at this facility more than words can express. I give you my word Major Carter, that I will never needlessly send such a valuable member of the SGC into anything that that member won't come home from. No life is worth risking for a false reason. I regard politics and television to be false reasons. I appreciate your journey here and recognise the pain you are going through, as do SG1."
Whilst Hammond was speaking, Sam, Jack and Daniel had gained some composure and returned to the table. Teal'c remained kneeling on the floor with a barely conscious Carter. As Hammond finished, the visiting Carter mustered the effort to speak.
"Thank you Sir. That's all I wanted to hear. I got to the mirror and picked the first universe that showed something I recognised from the SGC that I knew. I knew that I wanted to tell someone what had happened and save Janet in another universe from such an unnecessary death. It didn't feel right." It was obvious to everyone present how much effort that had taken on the part of Carter, an indicator of not only how much effect the death was having on her, but also that the cascade was beginning. Surprisingly, Teal'c was the one to break the once again near deafening silence.
"Did you love Janet as more than a friend?"
"Yes, I love her with every fibre of my being. She is my life; she is the reason I get up every day, the ." Carter's voice faded into nothing as once again exhaustion consumed her. To her surprise, she felt a body nestle in behind her and strong arms surround her exposed side as a gentle voice continued for her,
"very reason we go through that gate. We strive to keep this world safe for her, and we beat ourselves up every time something happens to her. She is our oxygen, isn't she?"
"Yes." The breathed response was all that Carter could say before she slipped into a deep unconscious that could only be cured by returning to her host universe. The cure was unattainable with the mirror being too far away. Privately, General Hammond suspected that the visiting Carter had known this and had never had any intention of returning to her own universe, instead preferring to risk everything in another universe. He tried not to think what would of happened if this universe had not had a Janet Fraiser. Shutting down his wandering thoughts, he refocused on the huddled SG1 at the side of the room, and tried to redirect their energies onto the least negative thing he could currently think of, and even that wasn't all that great. Nevertheless, it was, he felt, better to get SG1 doing something before they could really sit and process everything that had happened. He was thankful to note that no one seemed to have reacted or noticed Sam's joint confession with her counterpart about her connection with Janet, a slight consolation in the emotionally charged room.
"I think we had better relocate our guest to the infirmary so that she may gain what comfort and relief we can provide. Major Carter, what impact does your immediate proximity have on the Major? Is her suffering alleviated in any way by your distance or lack thereof?"
"No Sir. It has got beyond that point."
Before George could say anything further, Jack interrupted the exchange, prompted by the emotions clearly displayed on his 2IC's face.
"Sir, whilst it may be that their proximity has little effect on our guest, I can't imagine that it is doing Major Carter much good." Before he could continue, Sam levelled an empty, emotionless look in his direction and was about to dismiss his comment when Teal'c once again uttered the decisive statement.
"General Hammond. I know that what is about to happen is distressing for both Majors. I will take Major Carter to the infirmary and stay with her. Daniel Jackson and O'Neill, you will accompany me." Sensing that this was not a time to try and impose the hierarchical structure, Hammond merely nodded his agreement and watched the three men leave, with Teal'c effortlessly carrying his precious cargo. As Sam moved to follow, she was stopped by a gentle voice with a warm Texan drawl.
"Sam? Come and talk to an old friend?" The familiar phrase was all that Sam needed to lose any ounce of composure she may have mustered since hearing the shocking news and in an instant she was in the arms of 'Uncle George' much as she had been when she was a confused teenager trying to cope with the loss of her mother. As the trembling subsided, George loosened his hold on her so that he could see her face.
"Feel any better?"
"No, in fact, I feel worse."
"Why am I feeling this? It wasn't my Janet. It wasn't my universe. Why did it get to me like it did?"
"Why did it get to all of us like it did Sammie? Jack nearly had a fight with the table; Daniel had a fight with himself. I had a fight with my alternate self in the mirror in my office! It was the video, it made it too real."
"But it wasn't her."
"No, it wasn't your love. It wasn't my CMO. But it was Janet Fraiser. It was a person who looked like her, sounded like her, cared like her and loved like her. That was all too real for all of us. Words we can filter out, but real images are harder to stomach, more difficult to dismiss as propaganda."
"I lost it. I shouldn't have. Oh God, I told everyone." As Sam realised what she had exposed about herself, she instinctively tensed and tried to withdraw from George's embrace. Pulling her into a tighter embrace, he once again began comforting her, rubbing her back like he had done that night all those years ago. When he felt her yield to his embrace again but not lose all the tension, he calmly spoke not only as a friend, but also as her CO
"Sam, what you said is what I had hoped you would say. There is nothing wrong with someone loving someone else. I would have been concerned if you had not reacted to what she had said. As for the fact that you shared how deep your feelings are for Janet with SG1, that doesn't matter. There is, and should never be, anything to stop two people feeling that way for each other: not society, not SG1 and not me. They will, when they remember, accept it, assuming they hadn't already."
"What do you mean?"
"Sam, Teal'c knew. I think Jack knows too. And if he does, well, he would have asked Daniel about it, assuming that Teal'c hadn't. So they all knew something, maybe not everything, but I don't think anyone was surprised. It's going to be fine."
After a long pause and a few deep breaths, Sam felt composed enough to withdraw from the supportive embrace of her godfather. Given how recently her relationship with her father had been resolved, George had assumed the role of father to her on numerous occasions, something for which she would always be grateful for. Looking him straight in the eye, she managed to square her shoulders and say in a small, but confident voice
"Thank you Sir."
"You're more than welcome Major. Now, I'm going to have someone take you home. You've worked more than enough hours this week to gain you an afternoon off, so I want you to take it. Go home Sam. Go and curl up in bed with your teddy bear or look at old baby photos."
"But Janet .."
"Is off world at the moment, yes. And the minute she steps foot on that ramp I will be sending her home to you. You won't have to wait much longer if you're waiting for her at home and it means that when you do see her you won't have to care about who sees you or whether the camera is on."
Sam considered George's words briefly, her emotional arguments dismissed by logical, rational thoughts that appeared from nowhere. Nodding, she signalled her agreement with her CO, before taking her leave to go and gather her things. As she shut the door behind her, George turned to look at the gate through the window and murmured
"Come on Ferretti, bring her home in one piece."
Six Hours Later:
"Incoming Wormhole Sir!" The technician manning the control room computers always prided himself in the way he managed to suppress the fear he felt every time the gate rumbled into action. For reasons he did not know, this was far more crucial than any other jumps of late, with General Hammond and Colonel O'Neil pacing the control room for the last half hour, waiting for activity. As the iris slid into position, the technician became conscious of a growling emanating from the suddenly still Colonel as he glared at the computer screen.
"Give us the code. Send the god damn code."
Startled at the emotional response from such a senior officer over a seemingly routine mission, the technician began repeating the same mantra silently as the computer received and began to analyse the incoming code.
"Code received. It's SG7 Sir."
"Open the Iris. Jack, with me." In a blur of blue, the General was gone, rushing out of the control room headed for the gate room before the first member of SG7 had appeared, with Jack moving equally fast. By the time all four members of SG7 had appeared, General Hammond was wanting a report.
"Nothing of note Sir. The exchange of medical information and technologies went as forecast. Dr Fraiser should be coming through now with SG2 as escort. We received your radio message."
"Excellent." As the dusty SG7 moved to exit for the locker rooms, they were called back.
"Major? You're not thinking of heading to the showers are you?"
"You guys just wait. Doctor Fraiser has priority this time. She's needed elsewhere."
"But Sir .." Before SG7 could get any further with their protests, a distinct female voice, with a slight hint of a warm Southern accent cut across their protests.
"Where exactly am I needed General?"
"Thank God, Doc. You Ok?" inserted Jack, earning him a warning glare from the General. In reply, he shrugged sheepishly, as if saying "You mean you weren't about to ask the same thing?"
"Fine thank you Colonel, and yourself?" responded Janet conversationally, noting the exchange between the two men.
"Just dandy now you're back with us Doc, just dandy."
"I'm glad to hear. No big needles on the horizon you're safe for the moment Colonel. General?"
Janet redirected her focus back to the General, wondering what on earth was going on. Behind them, the two SG teams were standing around observing the trio of senior officers and their somewhat unusual exchange.
"Doctor Fraiser. I understand that the fastest post jump medical has taken 25 minutes?"
"Yes Sir." Janet responded carefully, not at all clear where this was leading.
"I want you in my office, in civilian dress in 30 minutes. Hit the showers NOW!" The sudden force in Hammond's command instantly brought the entire room to attention, so reminiscent was it of academy and boot camp drill sergeants, before Janet shot out of the gate room. Something told her that this was no time to question or debate with her CO. Instead, as she jogged through the corridors, wincing as the sand rubbed in unfortunate places, she mentally assessed how on earth she was going to get through a medical and shower in the time allowed, as well as trying to figure what could possibly have happened that would require her to be somewhere else so soon after a jump and in civilian dress. It was only as she stepped under the shower that she realised what had struck her as odd in the gate room. She'd spoken to Jack and seen Daniel and Teal'c standing to the side, but
"Oh My God! Where's Sam!?"
29 minutes later:
"Janet, have a seat."
"Sam is at home, waiting for you."
"Janet." George took a deep breath; despite all the thought he'd given this whilst he counted the hours until her safe return, he still didn't know how to explain what had happened. He had counted many hours over the years of his command, but those had felt like some of the longest of his career. His commanding tone had faltered slightly back in the gate room when, as SG2 and 7 made a move to head to the lockers, he had drawn Ferretti aside and said somewhat cryptically,
"Thank God you brought her back safe Major. Thank you."
Ferretti's surprise at such a response to such a seemingly simple mission was apparent as he replied,
"Thank you Sir, but it was a straight-forward routine mission."
"Major, one day you may discover exactly how crucial it became that this mission stayed straight-forward and routine, but until that time comes, if it ever will, it was a job well done."
Before Ferretti had chance to reply or ask for clarification, both O'Neil and Hammond had left the gate room. Then, as now, Hammond didn't know how to explain what had happened, so opted for the facts, however cold they were.
"Janet, whilst you were off-world, we received a visit from an alternate reality. From that reality, Major Carter came to show us a video as a warning. I don't think I can explain it any better than the video can." Feeling somewhat churlish and ashamed for what he was about to put his seemingly unflappable CMO through, he placed the video camera in front of her and indicated that she should watch it. After a few moments, an ashen faced Janet returned the camera to the desk.
"There was a political decision to make a documentary about the SGC. This included an off world mission that went bad. The CMO was rashly ordered through the gate to provide medical care in the field during an ongoing battle. Reviewing the facts that our guest provided, I suspect that the primary motivation for such an order was political rather than tactical. Major Carter wished to ensure that I was not stupid enough to take the same gamble ever."
"Where is the Major now? Has she returned?"
"She died in the infirmary 3 hours ago due to the cascade." George paused to study the woman whom he considered to be not only a valued colleague, but also another daughter, as he did Sam. He could see the shadows entering her features and was struck by how fragile her diminutive frame now appeared to be. Moving round his desk, he placed a hand gently on a trembling shoulder before saying quietly,
"It wasn't your Sam. It wasn't your Sam's Janet. She's safe at home. Go home. Go and tell her it wasn't real."
Janet lifted her gaze from the frozen image on the camera screen and blindly nodded her head in agreement. She wasn't sure quite what was causing her the greater numbness, the fact that she had just watched what appeared to be herself die or the fact that Sam Carter had died in her infirmary in her absence. The fact that it was the 'wrong' Carter didn't impinge on her. Sam Carter was, to some extent, Sam Carter, no matter what reality or timeline, just as Sam had shown earlier that Janet Fraiser was, to the same extent, Janet Fraiser, irrespective of temporal and quantum mechanics. But her Sam was at home, and that was where, Janet suddenly realised, she longed to be. George watched in amazement as he observed seemingly lifeless eyes grow warm and passionate; he could almost see the change in demeanour settle on her. Squaring her shoulders, Janet nodded once more before moving to leave the office with a determined stride. As she touched the door handle, George called out,
"There's a driver waiting topside. He's waiting for you," before he bent his head, seemingly now engrossed in the ever present paperwork on his desk.
45 Minutes Later:
Janet slipped into the house she shared with Sam and listened. Very rarely did Janet get to appreciate the full disquiet that was associated with complete silence. The fact that this was happening to her in her own home did not add to her general comfort factor. Removing her outdoor jacket, she placed it on the coat rack and surveyed the living room, the very empty and tidy living room.
"Oh Sam " As Janet began to move carefully through the positively spotless downstairs rooms, she couldn't let the exclamation pass her lips. Pausing to glance in the kitchen, she was greeted with an equally pristine finish that gave the kitchen a somewhat artificial feel. Shaking her head in distress, she again couldn't suppress the feelings that were welling up inside her from escaping,
"My poor darling Sam .." she breathed, in a tender whisper that, if it were possible, would envelop the recipient in a deep protective, loving embrace.
Janet climbed the stairs, absently noticing the sparkling banister only to pause at the threshold of their bedroom. Curled up in the tightest foetal position imaginable, was a shaking Samantha Carter. As Janet took in the sight before her, part of her marvelled at how tightly curled her lover had become, and the resultant small patch of bed she now covered, whilst the rest of her cursed all things SGC for making her love experience such emotional agonies. Before she could move any further into the room, blue eyes emerged like twin laser search beams from the huddled figure, and latched onto Janet's own brown orbs, locking her to her spot. Such was the intensity of emotion expressed therein that Janet found herself unable to move, breath or even think.
"Uncle George told be to go home and curl up with my teddy bear." The uncharacteristically timid tone of voice and the childlike expressions snapped Janet out of her daze. Moving to the bed, she sat down on the edge, facing the still curled Sam.
"And you have done. But you also tidied the whole house too. It looks very shiny." Janet's tone was warm and reassuring, even if the words were somewhat unusual for such a situation.
"Yes. Everything is in its proper place." Smiling at the pride that managed to seep through the remark, Janet leant forward and ran her fingers through the slightly damp blonde locks that rested on Sam's forehead. Outwardly, Janet was radiating nothing but calm support and love that could almost have been described as being maternal in nature. Inside however, she was trying very hard not to lose all emotional control. From experience, she knew that Sam had two ways of dealing with big issues she couldn't cope with. Sam either shut everyone out as she had done after Jolinar, or she readied the house for something to happen, as she had done as a child immediately after her mother's death. Depending on what happened, the tidying could precede the 'shut down' phase, or Sam would work her way through the issues and confusion, and emerge again once she had recovered from the effort of getting an entire house 'ship shape'.
"Are you sure everything is in its proper place my darling?"
"Where do I go in the house Sam? I want to be in my proper place " Janet's gentle questioning was accompanied by soothing hands running through tousled hair and over tense shoulders.
There was a long pause whilst Sam processed the many confused thoughts rattling around her brain. Whilst she waited, Janet couldn't help recalling a visualisation that an old professor had given her to help her understand her psychology class years ago. He suggested that they all imagine the brain as a series of filing cabinets filled with index cards, complete with a librarian to go look things up for you. He had all sorts of different analogies for different degrees of severity. At the time, all the students had thought he was a freak, but during her years of practicing, Janet had come to find the imagery rather useful. At this moment, she couldn't help but picture a frazzled librarian returning from lunch to find all the filing cabinet draws open, forcing the librarian to check every drawer was tidy before closing it, gradually returning order and banishing the chaos. Inwardly smiling, she couldn't stop herself murmur,
"Oh Sam, you do have a lot of filing cabinets don't you?" but thankfully Sam didn't seem to notice the comment.
After a seemingly indeterminate period, Sam loosened her tightly curled limbs slightly and again looked straight into Janet's eyes once more, searching for some emotional anchor to clasp, like she was the battered teddy bear. The ordinarily sparkling blue sapphires were currently dull, much like the ocean looks on a sunny morning before all the mist had faded cloudy, but with the potential to sparkle and shimmer given time.
"Janet?" The timid whisper was the first time that Sam seemed to acknowledge that the caring presence with her belonged to that of her lover.
"Yes honey?" Curbing her desire to pull Sam into a tight embrace and release the tears swelling in her, Janet never stopped soothing the locks covering the troubled brow.
"General Hammond told me to go home and wait for you to come back. He told me to look at baby pictures or curl up with my teddy bear."
"I know hon. I'm back now."
"Good." There was a brief moment when it seemed that Sam was once again content, but no sooner had she relaxed than Sam once again tensed, and again, Janet found herself looking at troubled and confused eyes .
"It's me love. It's really me"
"But I saw ." Sam trailed off unable to finish her thought.
"Sam, you saw a video film of someone in another reality dying. They looked like me because in that reality they were me. But you're in this reality we both are."
"But I saw it. It was so real ."
"I know darling. I saw it too. It looked real, because somewhere, at some time, it was real, for someone. But not for you and me. For us it wasn't real ."
As Janet pulled Sam more securely into her embrace, she heard Sam repeat the phrase.
"For us it was not real .." over and over again.
Kissing the top of her lover's head, Janet could only listen as the blonde finally worked the shock out of her system, erupting in tears and finally giving in to all the suppressed emotion that had been welling up inside Sam for the past 7 hours or so. Eventually, Sam gained enough composure to pull back from the embrace. Looking once more into Janet's eyes, she said in a quiet yet strong voice.
"It wasn't real for us, was it Jan? It wasn't you."
"No my love. It wasn't me .it wasn't real for us." Sam absorbed these words as their meaning began to finally sink in to her. Janet was safe. It hadn't been her Janet, but a warning from another reality, Her Janet was here now, alive, safe in her arms. Grinning slightly sheepishly, Sam muttered,
"I cleaned and tidied the house like a maniac again. I must stop doing that," which elicited a gentle laugh from her lover.
"You can clean the house all you want if it helps you think stuff out. You did a marvellous job. I don't think I've seen everything put away properly for so long. Everything is in its proper place. Even me."
Sam glanced down at their entwined bodies and couldn't help but agree with her love, her soul mate. It had been a horrible day for both of them, but they had survived it, and, at the end of the day, everything had returned to equilibrium. As Janet settled down into Sam's warm embrace, she heard her lover quietly ask,
"Janet, tell me it's not real?"
And Janet, knowing that her lover was healing, turned in the embrace and, kissing Sam tenderly said,
"I can do better than tell you it's not real. I can show you it's not real " before she began to show Sam and in turn be shown by Sam how very much alive they both were, in body and spirit.