DISCLAIMER: The story, and characters and anything and everything else concerning SG: SG1 belong to MGM, Gekko, Secret Productions etc, they are so not mine and no money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Rocketchick for challenging me to write something for one of her wallpapers `Saying Goodbye'. It came at just the right time to provide impetus for a scene I was writing between Sam and Janet. Lyrics quoted are by Bjork.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Though I may have lost count somewhere, I think that this is my 100th Stargate Fanfic, a concept that is truly scary. And some of you are still reading them! Thanks for all the support and encouragement over the last year and a bit.
WARNINGS: Allusions to though no direct descriptions of het sex.
SPOILERS: AU set some time season five as Daniel is non-glowy.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author

By Celievamp

"Taylah, I wish you would let someone else do this," Broudie grumbled. "Vash will have my hide for letting you go up that ladder if he finds out."

His boss grinned down at him from the top of the ladder. "It would take me too long to explain what I want to check to someone else – even you - and besides, it's a five talla job," she said. "And I've been up here hundreds of times. It's perfectly safe."

Yes, but not when you were six monads with child, Broudie thought grimly. And Vash particularly asked me to make sure that you rested. He said that you weren't sleeping well. And you do look tired today.

The young engineer contented himself with keeping a steadying hand on the ladder as the blond haired woman fiddled with the complex circuitry behind the sixth symbol on the reconstructed Starwheel. Since Taylah Minh had joined the project eight monads earlier as Chief Engineer they had made amazing progress in deciphering the alien technology and rebuilding the device. Taylah seemed to have an innate almost instinctive knowledge of the Starwheel and the processes behind it that amazed her colleagues. They had begun to believe she could work miracles. They were now just a few short weekens away from making the first powered test.

Up the ladder Taylah slipped the screwdriver she had been using into her mouth so that she could better use both her hands. Her mouth was suddenly flooded with a bitter metallic taste. The screwdriver must have some contaminant on it, she thought, resisting the urge to spit it out. Her stomach lurched and it was as if her centre of gravity had suddenly shifted.

Major Sam Carter realised that she was falling. Her foot had slipped on the ladder she had no recollection of climbing up. She grabbed for a rung but her body felt curiously awkward and uncoordinated and she continued to fall. She heard a cry of alarm from somewhere below her and then she hit the floor, flat on her back, the wind knocked out of her. Everything grayed out for a few moments, the pain in her head overwhelming. It truly felt like she had shaken something loose this time. Someone she did not recognise was leaning over her.

"Taylah, don't try to move. Captain Vash and Healer Frasno are on their way."

"Who's Taylah?" Sam managed to ask before she passed out.

Janet Fraiser contemplated her garden. Even though it was early June it was a cold, slightly misty day, not the ideal weather for such activities but she needed the peace that tending her garden gave her. Today more than ever. It was a year today since Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill were captured by slavers, eleven months since they had any positive word of their whereabouts.

In her heart she knew that Sam was alive. But it was so hard without her. Every night for weeks after her disappearance Janet had terrible nightmares. Every night she dreamt about Sam being captured, tortured, used as forced labour in some naquada mine, experimented on by a monster like Nirrti, or taken as a host and implanted with a Goa'uld made a prisoner in her own body. The fact that all of these things had actually happened to Sam over her years with the SGC and she had survived them all was little consolation.

Then the dreams just stopped. That hurt her more than the dreams themselves had done.

She forced herself to continue methodically weeding the flower beds. She had neglected them recently. Her work took up a lot of her time – too much. Glancing up at her daughter's window where rock music could be heard she acknowledged to herself that the garden had not been the only thing she had neglected lately. And it would take more than a little light weeding to make that all right.

The words of the song filtered down to her, the sweet frail voice of the singer surprisingly clear:

"while you are away
my heart comes undone
slowly unravels
in a ball of yarn
the devil collects it
with a grin
our love
in a ball of yarn
he'll never return it
so when you come back
we'll have to make new love" (Bjork: Unravel)

While you are away my heart comes undone. For a moment Janet could not breathe the pain of her loss was so great. But the song had hope as well. When you come back. When Sam came back. The promise of new love, a new beginning.

Get a grip of yourself, Fraiser, she told herself and set to work again. Her eyes were stinging, her breathing coming in pained gasps as if she had been running hard. Actually that wasn't a bad idea. Though she knew that however far and fast she ran she could not outrun the loss that threatened to break her.

She glanced up again a few minutes later as she thought she heard the phone ring inside the house but Cassie had obviously got to it. If it was anything important her daughter would let her know. Her back was aching and she paused for a moment before continuing her task rolling her shoulders and arching her spine trying to ignore the tears that were rolling down her cheeks. Even though she was not much of a gardener herself (though she did talk to the plants in her lab) Sam loved spring flowers, especially pansies. Most of them had died off but a few brave bright faces still showed. Today, Janet gave them her special attention.


Hastily she brushed away the tears not realising that she left a muddy streak across one cheek before she turned to acknowledge her daughter. "What is it Cassie? I'm…" She paused as she saw that her daughter was not alone. Daniel Jackson and Teal'c stood on either side of her. Teal'c had his arm around Cassie's slender shoulders.

"We didn't think you should be alone today," Daniel said quietly. "And we didn't want to be alone either. We miss them as well, Janet." He reached out to help her to her feet not caring about the damp soil that still clung to her fingers. "We miss them so much." Too shaken to resist Janet allowed herself to be held in the curve of his arms, Cassie's body pressed to her side. She was aware of Teal'c's hand caressing the back of her head as the sobs she was unable to hold in any longer shook her. Dimly she tried to remember the last time anyone had touched her like this and realised that it was not since she had said goodbye to Sam before she went on that last mission. Too long. Far too long. She lost herself in the sensation of being touched, of being loved.

She didn't remember being led back into the house. The next thing she truly remembered was Daniel handing her a steaming mug of coffee and as she inhaled the fragrant steam she could sense the healthy slug of bourbon he had added to it. "Terrible thing to do to a decent brand of coffee, I know," he said, "but you look like you needed something a little stronger than usual."

"Thanks," she said, her voice husky with tears. Not wanting to look at any of them she let her gaze rove around the room. She hadn't changed anything so Sam's things were still scattered around, as if Janet was expecting her to reappear at any time. A leather jacket was draped over the back of one of the dining chairs, her magazines were in a pile in the corner by the desk waiting for her to get round to reading them. A post it note in her writing reminding Janet to pick up their dry cleaning was on the side of the computer monitor. It could happen. She could come back. It had to happen.

Her gaze alighted on a picture that Cassie had taken of them together a few weeks before Sam had vanished. They had gone up to the National Park for the day. Sam was sitting on top of a rock, Janet standing between her legs, both of them looking out over the view. Sam's arm was across her shoulders, her head very close to Janet's as she pointed something out to her. Both of them were grinning, unaware that the picture was being taken

"Whatever the official line, Janet, no one has given up hope of finding them. Every mission we come across new people we ask them if they have any knowledge of them or the slavers that took them. The same with the Tokra. The Asgard and the Tollan are also looking. We will find them, Janet. They are out there somewhere."

"I know," Janet said softly. "I also know that `out there' is a hell of a big place. She isn't dead. I would know. But… I think something bad has happened to her. To both of them."

"They are both resourceful people. They will be doing everything they can to stay alive," Teal'c said.

"And that can mean some unsavoury things sometimes," Daniel said quietly. "I think we have to face the fact that when we do get them back they might not be quite the same people that we remember. But we will get them back."

"I am reminded of the many occasions when the resourcefulness of our comrades has saved not only our lives but those of many others, on this planet and elsewhere," Teal'c said.

"Me for starters," Cassie said. "It's the first thing I really remember – you Teal'c holding out your hand to me. And Sam staring at me. Even through the faceplate I could see her concern for me. I knew then that she would do anything and everything she could to keep me safe. Even when she left me in the bunker, I knew she was hurting as much as I was."

"She wanted very much to adopt you herself, you know," Janet said, carding her fingers through Cassie's long dark blonde hair. "She gave the General quite a hard time when he said that in fairness to you he could not let her adopt you. You needed a more stable environment than she could give you. Do you remember…?"

A lot of healing happened that day. They talked long into the night about Sam and Jack and the things they had done, why they meant so much to the people left behind. They all laughed. They all cried. Cassie fell asleep on the sofa and Teal'c carried her up to bed as if she were a young child not a well grown seventeen year old. It was well after midnight before Daniel and Teal'c left to go back to the base.

And that night Janet dreamt of Sam for the first time in months.

"She was remarkably lucky considering the distance she fell and the hard surface she landed on, Captain Vash." Someone was talking near her. A woman. "Taylah has strained her back, dislocated her left shoulder and has a concussion but apart from that she's fine. So is the baby."

"I'd really like to know what the hell she was doing up that ladder in the first place. I told her just this morning to take it easy!" A man's voice, sort of familiar. "But does she listen to me? Hell, no." Sam struggled to open her eyes.

"Healer Frasno, I think she's waking up…"

Sam's vision was very blurred at first. Everything seemed monochrome, in shades of gray. Someone was bending over her. She got the impression of dark eyes, tanned skin and salt and pepper hair. "Taylah, come on honey, help me out here. Open those baby blues for me."

Jack. His name was Jack. Jack O'Neill. But why was he calling her Taylah? That wasn't her name. She wasn't sure what her name was at the moment, but she knew it wasn't anything like Taylah.

"Jack?" she whispered, blinking, trying to clear her vision. Yes, that was definitely Jack O'Neill, Colonel USAF, but he was the only thing that she did recognise. She was surprised to see the woman doctor, but she didn't know why. For some reason she expected her to look different: small, dark haired, with dark brown eyes that… She shivered. Who was this tall red head with piercing green eyes? "Jack, where are we? What's happened?"

Jack looked up at Frasno. "What's wrong with her, Healer?"

"A little confusion is to be expected, Captain Vash. Your wife has a concussion and is in shock. And there is the pain medication to consider. Not to mention her general physical condition. We spoke of the effects of the chemical contamination earlier. I did mention that hallucinations and false memories were possible side-effects."

She struggled to sit up again. "Look, I don't know what is going on here, but his name is Colonel Jack O'Neill, not Vash. And I am not his wife. I am… I am…" This was going no where. Who the hell was she?

An image suddenly flashed into her mind. A tall, slender woman with short blonde hair and remarkably blue eyes was trying to fasten the tie of a dress uniform of some kind. Her reflection scowled as someone unseen laughed pleasantly at her frustration. "C'mere flygirl." She turned to look down at the upturned face of a young woman with deep brown eyes in a round face of almost perfect beauty, framed by dark brown hair with reddish tints that caught the morning sunlight flooding into the room. It was a face and form that she had seen often and in vivid detail in her dreams over the last couple of weeks but she had no name to put to it. Then the image was gone but another door in her memory had been opened. Flygirl.

"My name is Major Samantha Carter of the United States Air Force and something is very wrong here!" Sam struggled to sit up but her body would not obey her. Her back hurt a great deal and her head was spinning.

"Healer, what is wrong with my wife?" the man she knew as O'Neill asked, obviously deeply disturbed with what was going on.

"Her life energies are becoming very erratic," Healer Frasno said, studying a readout above Sam's head. "I am going to have to sedate her.'

"No!" Sam screamed and started to struggle against the doctor and O'Neill but the pain in her back and her head sapped her strength. For the first time she took note of her swollen body. What the hell… she looked as if she was… The healer's earlier words came back to her: `and the baby is fine.' "No! What the hell have you bastards done to me?" Jack was helping to hold her down as the woman injected something cold and bright into the IV snaking into her arm and within seconds Sam felt her vision begin to blur as she fought a losing battle to stay conscious.

Alar Vash watched as his wife slipped unwillingly into unconsciousness, her pale cheeks wet with tears. Her outburst and obvious mental confusion, the turmoil in her voice, her expression had shaken him to the core of his being. "Healer Frasno, what the hasmada is wrong with my wife? Why does she not recognise her own name, her own husband? Why does she call herself `Samantha' and who is `Colonel Jack O'Neill'?" He pronounced the strange words carefully.

"Concussion can have strange effects sometimes," Frasno told him. "And your wife has been overworking herself for several weekens if not monads. There are also the side effects of the contaminant in her bloodstream that we discussed a few weeks ago. And of course one cannot discount the pregnancy itself. I am confident that her bloodwork will show that her hormone levels have altered significantly. All of these things can cause the symptoms you have witnessed. A few days rest and the appropriate medication and Taylah will be back to her old self, I assure you. And you need to rest as well, Captain Vash. I know how stressful these last weekens have been for you. Taylah won't wake again today. You can come and see her again tomorrow. And I will be keeping her in the clinic for observation for at least three days."

Vash nodded stiffly, obviously still unsatisfied by her answer but unwilling to press it for the moment. He bent over his wife again, stroking her cheek with his fingertips and kissed her, gently brushing the remaining tears from her cheeks. He nodded brusquely in Frasno's direction and left.

Frasno looked down at the sleeping woman and sighed. She had taken a great risk already for the sake of this woman and her unborn. The memory suppressants would have caused gross mental handicaps to the child she was carrying if administered in the recommended dosage during the monads of her pregnancy. Frasno had her duty to the company but she had a higher duty as a healer. She could not in all conscience do anything to harm this woman's unborn child. So for the past four months she had administered a placebo to Taylah Minh, the former USAF Major Samantha Carter and now the personality graft was beginning to degrade. Unfortunately it was all happening faster than Frasno had calculated.

She only hoped that the directors did not get wind of what had happened. Taylah Minh was a valuable property. They had paid a great deal of money for Major Carter and Colonel O'Neill at the Denedran slave market. Installing the memory blocks and overwriting the personality and memories of Samantha Carter without removing or impairing her scientific and technical expertise had taken weeks of painstaking work. She had a strong mind, an unusual physiology. As it was the stress had nearly killed her. But it had to be done. Major Carter had refused pointblank to work for them prior to the conditioning.

No one had expected the two indoctrinated soldiers to fall in love and get married. And then despite the medication she was on to ensure that it would not happen, Taylah had become pregnant almost straight away. More than one director had come privately to Frasno and asked her to do something about getting rid of the child so that Taylah would not be distracted from her work on the Starwheel. But unless she received a direct order from the central committee Katrin Frasno vowed she would do nothing that would contravene the sacred code of her profession. However inconvenient that might be to her employers. For her own part she had strongly recommended that the pregnancy be allowed to run its course, arguing that any overwhelming emotional upset – such as a miscarriage - could destabilise the personality graft beyond any hope of restitution of the graft or the original personality. Taylah Minh would be left a catatonic amnesiac. She reiterated in her report how difficult it had been to install the block in the first place. The mind of Samantha Carter had fought them every step of the way.

She watched the readings above Taylah Minh's bed stabilise and then a message came for her to report to Director Runrig's office. Katrin Frasno sighed. She reached out and patted Taylah's hand. "I will do my best for you my dear." Any other motive she might have for helping this woman rediscover her true identity she firmly quashed. Such a liaison crafted in so underhand a manner would also be against her healer's principles but she had discovered her heart had other ideas on the matter.

Alar Vash turned out the light in the bathchamber and walked through into the bedchamber. Taylah was already in bed, lying on her side facing away from him, pretending to be asleep. As she had done every night since Healer Frasno had released her from the clinic. She could not seem to bear his touch any more. Yet she was neither angry nor hateful towards him merely inconsolably sad. He had spoken to Frasno about it and she said it was a side effect of the mood stabiliser medication Taylah had been prescribed. Certainly there had been no more hysterical outbursts but Vash almost preferred his emotionally unstable but sensual and vital wife to the pale depleted and sad creature that currently shared his bed.

Vash was a patient man. Healer Frasno had counselled him to be considerate with his wife's emotional state. Any undue stress on her could be dangerous for her and their child. She hoped that once the child was born the hormonal imbalance would correct itself naturally and his wife's emotional state would return to normal. Vash prayed to whatever gods were listening that this would happen. He missed his Taylah very much.

As he lay in bed beside her Vash found himself remembering how they had first met. He had been Chief of Security for the Starwheel project for almost three weeks when the newly appointed Project Engineer finally arrived. Although they had been appointed at the same time illness had delayed her taking up the post.

He smiled, remembering his reaction at the first sight of her, how her fragile beauty had swept him away. That and the almost unshakeable conviction that he had met her before. In another life perhaps. The Tenets said such things were possible. He had begun to court her almost from that first day. She fascinated him and he thought that she was at least interested in him. But she was shy and driven by her work and seemed completely unaware of just how beautiful she was. It took all his powers of persuasion just to get her come and drink a cup of taki with him.

After a few weeks he had made it plain to her – and to their work colleagues (most of whom already knew) – that he was courting her. The blush that coloured her cheeks and her shy smile every time she saw him led him to believe that he was getting somewhere with her. At the party to mark the first night of the Sunturn festival he asked her to marry him. She said yes to his undying amazement and delight. And on the third night of the festival, as was the custom, they were married.

And less than two monads later she had told him that she was expecting their child. Alar Vash had never been married before though he had enjoyed numerous liaisons. He had never fathered a child, never expected to. Yet the news that this woman whom he loved more than he believed possible was to bear his child filled him with a quiet but fierce joy.

Sam did not know what to do, what to think. It was as if she had two sets of memories in her head, both equally compelling, both equally real. In one she was Major Samantha Carter, of the United States Air Force. Her mother was dead, her father was not and she had a brother called Mark. She thought he was older than she was but in her memories he remained a tiresome teenager. There was also someone called Selmac but she could not quite remember how she fit into the equation. And another name - Jolinar, but even the thought of that name made her uneasy for some reason. A large deceptively gentle black man with a gold symbol on his forehead, who was a stranger to her world. Another man, Daniel who looked as if he could be her brother but was not. An older man, bald, stern but kindly. For some reason she thought of him as `Uncle George' but she knew that that was not quite right. And the man lying quietly beside her in bed, his hand resting on the curve of her hip, was Colonel Jack O'Neill. His presence was the only thing common to both sets of memories. He was not her husband, he was her Commanding Officer in something called SG1 and her friend. She was not in love with him. She was in love with someone else. The woman of her dreams, the woman in her dreams. Whose name continued to elude her.

At the same moment she was Taylah Minh, first and only child of Orlan and Elisa Minh, originally of Sechar Province, orphaned as little more than a baby during the Magellenic Uprising thirty years before. Raised and educated by the state who had recognised her potential and pushed her hard. Working now on a project the implications of which were so far reaching that they could change the future for the better for every man woman and child on this planet. For her child.

At first the thought of her pregnancy had revolted her. She had no idea how she had become pregnant, whether it had been done with her consent or whether it was just another element in this plot she appeared to be part of. It could even be something that had just happened between Alar and Taylah. O'Neill - Alar - certainly believed that he was the father. He had shown nothing but loving concern for her. Although he did expect to enjoy a full sexual relationship with her – something that revolted her on several levels. He also showed no sign of remembering any other existence other than that as Captain Alar Vash.

But she did. And as Colonel Jack O'Neill there was no way that he should be sharing her bed. Over and above the fact that she did not love him, she loved [a sweet face, doe eyes the shade of the richest chocolate, creamy skin, a smile that could lighten her darkest mood]

… her situation seemed hopeless. Her child moved within her and Sam smiled sleepily, stroking her abdomen. Maybe not completely hopeless. The child within her had become the bright point of her life. Even if she could not remember everything she did remember always wanting to have children of her own.

He sighed, shifted closer behind her, spooning around her. She felt something hard prod against her buttocks and stiffened, feeling the blush of shame and embarrassment flood her cheeks. She held herself absolutely still trying not to give him any further encouragement.

His hand slid over her hip. "It's my sidearm, Carter, I swear," he murmured in his sleep.

Sam did not know whether to laugh or cry. Jack O'Neill was still in there somewhere after all.

Sam could not allow them to take her off the project. Ironically it was the only way she could get them home. Ignoring Healer Frasno's instructions to rest she threw herself into her work. Nothing that her doctor, her husband or her assistant could say would dissuade her. Piece by piece the puzzle that was the Starwheel came together. Sometimes it seemed to her that it was not so much that she was learning how to do something but that she was remembering how it should be done. Her dreams of that other place, the mysterious SGC told her that her instincts were right. She had done this before. What took the time was explaining to her colleagues how it all came together. There seemed to be two schools of opinion about her: she was either divinely inspired or completely insane. But as long as she got results.

Another month passed. The reconstruction was complete, every circuit checked and double checked. The co-ordinate programme was ready, linked in to the system. The last five data models had been a complete success.

Her other construction job was also coming to fruition. Sam had been having false contractions for a couple of days, most of them were little more than twinges but one or two had doubled her up. Healer Frasno had warned her that they could happen. She had a feeling that she was running a light fever as well and her appetite was definitely off. And she had had a headache for the past two days. Too many hours spent underground, too many hours sat in front of a datascreen. She continued to work, managing to avoid Alar as much as she could so that he could not question her physical condition.

The alien beauty of the surviving control systems intrigued her, the crystals that powered and directed the energy flow. Broudie had worked with her in mapping the distinctions between the different colours, lengths and shapes that the crystals came in. The data models that Sam wrote enabled her to experiment with power configurations before committing their limited supply of intact crystals to live experiments.

But she was so tired. Broudie persuaded her to go home and get some rest. He would complete the sequence of tests and report his findings to her in the morning. The young man even went as far as escorting her to the transport and dialing her home co-ordinates. He did not say anything directly to her about how tired and pale she looked but the heat of her skin under his fingers alarmed him. He went back to his desk and sat for a moment before dialling Captain Vash's personal number.

"Who am I?"

A still-young face, blue eyes bright with intelligence, hope, a certain innocence yet betraying a great inner strength, the short blond utilitarian hair style only enhancing the beauty of her face, her toned body, her stance relaxed in military dress uniform. "Major Sam Carter."

Another face, bright eyes almost hidden under pronounced brow ridges, dirty blond hair hanging to her powerful shoulders. The voice guttural the words barely formed as if speech was a difficult concept. "She!"

Another face, almost the same as the first except that the blond hair flowed past her shoulders. The sapphire eyes held a quiet vulnerability, an old grief. "Dr Samantha O'Neill."

Another variation, short blond hair, a face stiff with anger and purpose, a deep commitment to a personal ideal. The eyes of a fanatic, their paleness briefly suffused with gold. "Jolinar of Melkshur."

Another face, the hair even shorter, roughly cut, mussed with dirt and grease, the face gaunt with exhaustion and malnutrition but the blue eyes shine with fierce intelligence. "Thera. It is my honour to serve."

Another face. The eyes wide and burning sapphire, the face immobile, the voice not hers, machine like. "I am Within."

Another face, eyes dark with desire. "Yours. Forever yours, my love."

"Taylah? Taylah, honey, wake up please. You're having a bad dream."

"Sam, you need to wake up now."

Deep inside she recognized the woman's voice as she had recognized the man's earlier. It was the woman in her dreams, the beautiful brunette she had been making love to night after night. "Please wake up."

"Taylah? Oh, god, you're burning up. I'm going to call Healer Frasno. Stay with me, Taylah, please stay with me."

But she couldn't stay. Not here. This was not her place, her home. She belonged somewhere else, at the side of the small dark haired woman whose name she still did not remember.

The woman's face was back again, the expression tense, slightly solemn, her long auburn hair held back from her face in a bun, strands escaping to frame her brow and cheeks. In her dream Sam reached out to touch her cheek. "Who are you?" she asked.

"Yours," the woman replied. Sam could see her clearly now. She was wearing a light blue shirt and a white coat that looked somehow official. Sam herself was in a military dress uniform. "Always yours, Sam. Never forget that. I miss you so much, Sam. Come back to me. Come back to me my love." Her lover reached out to grip her other hand. "Come back to me, Sam."


Several billion light years away Janet Fraiser raised her head from her desk, half scrambling to her feet. She gazed around her office in confusion. It had been so real. She had felt the touch of Sam's hand on her cheek, heard her voice. So real.

There was a hesitant knock on her door and Alicia peeked round it. "Dr Fraiser, are you okay? I heard you cry out."

"Knocked my hip on the edge of the desk," Janet lied, wiping the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. She was getting so good at lying. She did it every time anyone asked if she was okay. Some day she almost believed it herself. "I'm okay." She glanced at the clock. Another two hours before she could legitimately go home.

She could not settle. She could not get Sam out of her mind. She had the oddest feeling that Sam was calling out to her across the vast distances of space, that she was in trouble maybe even fighting for her life. And she needed Janet's strength to get her through. "Be safe, my love," Janet whispered, closing her eyes. "Be well. Come back to me."

"It is the brainfire isn't it?" Vash said watching as his unconscious wife was loaded into the carewagon. "I thought once you had it you were immune from catching it again." Thank god Broudie had called him to tell him that Taylah had gone home because she was feeling unwell. If he had not decided to come home early himself to surprise her… The sight of his wife sprawled unconscious on the floor of their bedchamber would be with him for a long time.

"In the vast majority of cases, yes," Frasno said. "This might be a different strain to the one she caught last year. It could even be a recurrence of the original infection. There are documented cases of it lying dormant in the cells for months even years after the initial attack."

"What about our child?"

"I have to be honest, Alar. Taylah could lose the baby. Her body is fighting the infection very hard and she will have limited resources to do anything else. The fever could cause her to miscarry. If she did go into labour now, there is only a very small chance that the child would survive."

"You're beginning to remember who you really are, aren't you?" Katrin asked softly.

Sam stiffened. This was the first time that anyone had confirmed that her dreams and memories were real, that she was not suffering from some mental disease, hormonal imbalance or chemical contamination. She felt an unseen weight drop from her. She was not going insane. She really did have a home, a life, to go to.

Sam turned her head on the pillow to look at the woman who had become her friend. "Can I trust you?"

"Of course," Katrin said. "I only want to help you. There are things you need to know. You were sold by the Denedran Vale, pirates and slavers who deal in all sorts of merchandise, including people, particularly skilled people. You were given drugs and therapy to make you forget your real identity and remember only what we wanted you to remember. The Denedran's sold you to us on the basis of your knowledge of the Starwheel and the Colonel on the basis of his knowledge of the Goa'uld and the other races out there. Every month you and others like you who live in our society – and there are many more than you think - must be given drugs to keep your memory blocks intact. You were also given drugs to prevent you from conceiving a child."

For some reason none of this came as a surprise to her. Sam looked down at her swollen abdomen. "So what went wrong?"

"We had never had a subject with quite your physiology. It is subtly different even to Colonel O'Neill's. It was very hard to impose the conditioning on your mind. And then when your body rejected the anti-conception drugs as well and you became pregnant it meant that I could no longer in all conscience continue to give you the drugs to maintain the conditioning. They would have caused your child to be born with grievous handicaps. I assured the board that a reduced level of drugs for the length of time of your pregnancy would lead to only minor degredation of the memory block. A few confused dreams perhaps, nothing more. What I did not tell them was that I had stopped giving you the drugs all together."

Sam had to ask. "You took a dreadful risk. Why didn't you just abort my child?"

"That would also have been against my code. I told the board that the stress of an abortion or miscarriage would cause you great mental damage probably rendering you unusable."

"So did I really have the brainfire?"

"This time, yes," Katrin said. "You were lucky that Alar found you in time. Half an hour or so longer and the blood poisoning would have been too widespread to counteract before it killed you. It would certainly have killed your child."

Sam shivered. "Meningitis. It sounds like meningitis – our term for the illness you call brainfire. And it kills many on my planet as well. I owe you a great deal." She paused. "Why are you helping me?"

Katrin could not meet those intense blue eyes. "I do not agree with our system's way of doing things, of stealing people's lives and minds. There has to be a better way."

"And?" Sam was not fooled.

"I am attracted to the Colonel. I know that if you were…" she paused.

"In my right mind?" Sam supplied the phrase, her eyes flashing in momentary anger.

Katrin inclined her head in acknowledgement. "Just so – you would not be interested in him."

"That's true. I am in love with someone else, back home," Sam said softly. "At least I think I am. It's still a little hazy. How on earth I'm going to explain this little one though…" She sighed, rubbing her temples. "Thank you for being honest with me – and for helping me out of this situation – whatever your motivation. When can I get back to work?"

"Two more days, if you continue to improve, you can go home and finish recuperating there. As for work, you can start at the beginning of the new cycle. One last thing, Samantha."


"When you and O'Neill escape – you will take me with you."

True to her word, Healer Frasno allowed Sam to go home two days later. After a week's enforced rest, Sam persuaded the Colonel or rather Alar to let Broudie come and visit her, bringing her copies of the latest test data for her to read. It gave her some heart to realise how close they were to completing the project. A few hours after Broudie left, Sam received a less welcome visitor.

An official transport drew up at her door and three men got out. With a sinking heart Sam recognized Director Runrig of the Central committee. One man stayed with the transport the other escorted Runrig to her door. The server let them in.

"Chief Engineer Minh, I trust you are feeling better?"

Taylah (as she must remember to think of herself) froze for a moment. She had not been expecting visitors, least of all a Committee member. She must play this very carefully, give this man no hint that she knew that her life as Taylah Minh was based on a lie.

"Much better, thank you, Director Runrig. Healer Frasno has cleared me to return to work at the beginning of the cycle."

"That is good to hear. From your last report you were only weekens away from completion."

"I hope to begin the first powered tests of the dialing mechanism for the Starwheel within the monad, Director. My assistant Engineer Broudie has kept the project almost up to schedule in my absence." She gestured to the discs and printouts covering the small table. "Reconstruction is completed and all our data models have had a positive outcome."

"Then he is to be commended," the Director said. His eyes slid over her curves in a manner Sam found truly offensive. Though she had seen him in newscasts she had never met him in person – or had she? She got a flash of him sitting behind a desk of her being held in restraints between two men, of being offered some kind of deal.

"We have bought your contract from the Denedran Vale. You will work on our starwheel project. Your profile shows that you have the necessary skills and knowledge."

"I demand that you release me," Sam said steadily. "I will not work as forced labour."

"This offer was made as a courtesy to your obvious level of civilisation and intelligence. We do not need your compliance. Take her to the Unit."

He had looked at her in the same way then as well. "So both your `projects' will come to fruition at about the same time?"

"So it appears, Director."

"Well, I wish you health and good fortune." Runrig got to his feet, indicating that she should stay seated. "And I will see you at the beginning of the cycle for the first test dial. We expect great things, Engineer Minh. Great things."

She was certain it wasn't paranoia, that they were really watching her. Sometimes she feared that it was O'Neill himself who was watching her. Alar Vash was a loyal servant to the system. If the Directors told him that they feared she might sabotage the project in some way because she was mentally unstable then he would increase the security around her. He certainly spent a lot more time prowling around the labs than he ever had done before, turning up in her lab at odd hours, his hands restlessly playing with whatever was to hand – behaviour she remembered all too well from Jack O'Neill. Of course it could just be that he was worried about her overworking herself again after her recent illness.

When she made her move he was coming with her. She just had not thought of a way to make that happen. And she was running out of time.

The official first dialing of the Starwheel was due to take place in four days time.

Luckily her staff had got used to her working out things on her own without necessarily explaining what she was doing. She was able to write and encrypt a fast dialing programme that would get them to the Alpha site. Once it had run it would release a worm that would erase all information about the Stargate and any addresses that they had already generated. It would set them back weeks if not months.

"Whatchya doin?"

"Alar! You startled me," Sam smiled up at the man who considered himself her husband. "Actually, I was just about to call you. I need a huge favour from you."

"Why does this sound as if it could get me into trouble?"

"It won't, I promise." She reached up to kiss his cheek. He looked unaccountably pleased and she realised that it was the first real gesture of affection she had shown him for weeks.

"The night before the launch I want to do a full run through of the programme, up to and including opening the wheel. I want everything to run perfectly at the launch."

"You don't have clearance for the power systems."

"But you do. And I know what to do if you open the board for me."

"I thought you weren't going to get me into trouble."

"If everything goes right on the day, no one will care," Sam pleaded, gazing up at him.

He looked down at her and she saw his eyes lose focus for a moment. She knew he would do it.

"Who else is involved in this?"

"No one else, not even Broudie."

"You can handle all that by yourself?"

"I've told you a hundred times Alar how it works. The computer handles 99% of it. All you really need to know is which buttons to press."

Katrin was here as instructed. It had been hard for her to leave her whole life behind her but she thought it would be for the best. But the Colonel was late.

It had taken her a while to persuade Broudie to go home as well once he realised that she intended to work late. He had never forgiven himself for her collapse.

"Broudie, it's okay. Alar is coming to escort me home himself in about an hour. I just want to go over everything one last time."

"Okay, Taylah. And the best of luck for tomorrow. It will be a great moment for our people."

She almost broke down then. "Yes it will, Broudie. Yes it will. And none of it would have been possible without your help. Thank you."

"Thank you, Engineer Minh, for the opportunity." He gave her a curiously formal bow followed by an absolutely informal grin and finally, to her relief, left.

Everything was set up. All she needed was access to the power systems. She could hack the system but it would take time and if someone really was monitoring the unauthorized access would be all the evidence they would need.

"You have the injection?" she asked Katrin.

Katrin nodded and showed her the slim hypodermic. "Once this is in his system the memory blocks should start to break down in a matter of hours. It won't be a pleasant process for him but will not harm him."

Remembering some of the events that the Colonel would be forced to recall Sam could only hope that she was indeed acting for the best.

"Sorry – got held up with some last minute details for tomorrow. Director Runrig wanted to talk to me about the security arrangements for the Patresi delegation. He…" he paused as he registered Healer Frasno's presence. "Is everything all right. Taylah – are you feeling ill?"

"I'm fine. I just promised Katrin a look at the completed Starwheel," Sam said. "Alar – the clearance for the power systems. If we're going to do this it has to be now."

"Okay." Leaning over her he input his security code and then flinched as Katrin injected him with the drug. "Hey, what was that for! I…"

He sat down abruptly looking very dazed.

"It has a slight sedative quality," Katrin explained. "I thought it would make him easier for us to handle."

Sam set the dial programme running to generate the Gate address for the Alpha site. She knew that they would run into security on the other side (hopefully the Marine detachment would ask questions before they started shooting) but no gate iris - at least she hoped not. They had been out of the loop for about a year after all. The Colonel was staring at her as if he had never seen her before. Even sedated there was no way she could force him into coming with them. Indeed she was still half in fear that he had turned her in to the authorities out of some misguided sense of responsibility for her.

"Colonel – Alar – we have to go now. I will explain everything, I promise." She pulled him to his feet and winced as he staggered heavily against her. They walked down the narrow stairwell to the Chamber.

The wormhole engaged. Katrin drew back, terrified by the rush of energy, the white-blue glow of the event horizon. "It won't hurt you," Sam promised. 'Ready?' She glanced across at Vash who was staring at the gate with a strange expression on his face. He was having a flashback to O'Neill's memories, she was certain. His next words confirmed it.

"Good morning campers," he said softly, taking Carter's other arm and he and Frasno helped her to walk up the steps and through the circle of light.

They emerged in full sunlight through the Alpha Gate to a welcoming squad of SG personnel and free Jaffa ready to fire on them if they made one wrong move until Master Brata'c recognised them and shouted for everyone to hold their fire.

"O'Neill! Major Carter! It is good to see you both safe and well. Come, rest and we will send a message to Hammond to tell him of your safe return."

O'Neill took two hesitant steps down the ramp and then turned to face Sam. "Everything in the security reports was true, wasn't it. Everything they said was delusion. What you said when you had your accident. Colonel Jack O'Neill is really who I am not Alar Vash. And you are Major Samantha Carter, my fellow officer and my friend, not Taylah Minh my wife."

"Yes, sir," Sam said. She would have said more but a fierce pain speared her abdomen and she doubled over, screaming in agony. Hot bloody liquid splashed onto the ramp. Her waters had broken. She was going into labour.

Katrin held her and Brata'c assisted as they quickly carried her between them to the medical unit. O'Neill, still in a state of shock followed them.

Doctor Janet Fraiser was paged to the General's room. Instantly she knew it must be news about Sam and Jack O'Neill. Since she had first had the dream/vision four weeks ago she was convinced that her lover was still alive and trying to get back to her.

Hammond looked stunned. "Dr Fraiser, a message just came from the Alpha site. Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter and another woman walked through their Stargate less than half an hour ago. Master Brata'c is requesting medical assistance. He requested you by name, Dr Fraiser. Teal'c is ready to accompany you through the Gate as soon as you're ready,"

Janet's delight at her friend and lover's return was mitigated by her deep concern over her possible condition. "I'll be ready in about fifteen minutes, sir. Did Master Brata'c give us any idea what to expect?"

"He didn't - other than they came through under their own steam."

Janet nodded, and as soon as she was out of Hammond's office set off for the infirmary at top speed.

Brata'c met them at the foot of the ramp. 'Dr Fraiser, Major Carter needs your attention. Her child comes swiftly.'

Her child? Janet forced herself not to show any reaction to this incredible statement. "And the Colonel?"

"O'Neill is very confused. His memories are slowly returning. Teal'c, would you go to him? Your presence might be familiar to him and ease some of his concerns."

"Of course, Master Brata'c," Teal'c said.

"They're suffering from memory loss?" Janet asked. They were walking across the compound towards the small medical unit when they heard a piercing scream. Janet was running towards the sound before she realised what she was doing. She had recognised the sound and reacted instinctively. It was Sam and she was in pain.

She arrived in the unit as Sam's scream died away into a sobbing wail. A strange woman was leaning over Sam, whispering quiet encouragement. Sam was in active labour, crouched, her knees bent, her belly incredibly mounded, sweat and tears streaming down her face. Some sort of device was set against her left temple, lights pulsing and as Sam recovered from the contraction the light pulses began to slow and Sam relaxed.

"Better?" the strange woman asked.

Sam nodded managing a weak smile and then looked up to see Janet. Any remaining colour left her face. "You!" she whispered, leaning heavily against the strange woman as Janet rushed forward to assist in getting her on to the bed.

"How far apart are her contractions?" Janet asked, going straight into doctor mode.

"About four of your minutes," the woman said. "Taylah... I mean Sam's child will be born soon. I am Katrin, I am a healer like yourself."

"You're real!" Sam said softly, staring at Janet, tears trickling down her ashen cheeks. "My god, you're real. I didn't know for sure. I can't remember your name but I have seen your face in my dreams for months. Talked to you, made…" She blushed as she remembered the content of some of those dreams.

Janet could not hold back a dazzling smile. "It's so good to have you back, Sam. And I'm Dr Janet Fraiser and yes, we are as close as you sense we are. Now, how many months were you into your pregnancy?"

"She had just entered the seventh monad," Katrin said. "But I don't know what that is in your time system."

"I think I'm about six weeks early," Sam gasped, tensing as she felt the beginnings of another contraction. "If I'm calculating the difference between Perown time and Earth time correctly. I worked it out that you had to divide by…"

"Hush now, save your breath, okay. I believe you," Janet smiled, tracing her thumb gently over one flushed cheekbone. "Sam, you're really doing well, now you need to relax yourself. Difficult I know, given the circumstances. I need you to concentrate on your breathing. I'm just going to check how things are going, okay? I'll try to be as quick as I can and not cause you any further pain." Slipping on a pair of latex gloves, she raised Sam's skirts and carefully inserted two fingers into Sam's vagina. Her cervix seemed fully dilated. Keeping her voice calm she told Sam exactly what she was doing. She could feel the baby's head, already in the birth canal. The baby was in the correct position. Sam moaned loudly and Janet could see the contraction ripple across her abdominal muscles feel it pushing against her fingers as she withdrew them. She could tell that Sam had put on very little weight beyond that of the baby. She drew Katrin aside as she drew off her gloves and binned them, putting on a fresh pair. "You've been her doctor throughout her pregnancy?" The alien woman nodded. "How has her health been, generally?"

"Physically, up, until a few weeks ago, very good. Then she fell victim to a disease called `brainfire' which I believe you call `meningitis'. She received treatment in time and made a full recovery. Mentally however she has been under a lot of strain because of the failing memory blocks and the pressure of her work. Her weight has dropped rather than increased."

Janet smiled, glancing across at Sam whose eyes were closed, sweat beading her brow and cheeks. "That's a standard Sam response to stress, I've found in the past."

They returned to Sam's side. Janet stroked back a lock of blonde hair. "Sam, everything looks fine," she glanced at Katrin for confirmation, the tall woman nodded. "I'm going to talk to Colonel Dixon for a moment, there are some things we're going to need for you and your baby. I will be as quick as I can, Sam." Impulsively, she embraced her. "Remember, you're very brave," she whispered. It was something that Sam had said to Cassie when they were both in a very dark place and had become a shorthand phrase between the three women to indicate their level of emotional commitment to one another. She had no idea whether Sam would recognise the reference.

Though she was loth to let this woman out of her sight so soon after finding her again, Sam nodded. "Okay."

"I am here," Katrin said softly. Sam smiled up at her friend and then started and gave Janet another searching stare. "Cassie," she said. "What you said... I said it to someone called Cassie. But I don't know who she is." She sighed in frustration.

Janet smiled. "Cassie is our adopted daughter. I'll tell you all about her when I come back."

The two women watched the small trim figure leave the room.

"She's the one, isn't she," Katrin said softly. "The one you had to come back to."

"Yes," Sam said softly, "I'm remembering more and more every moment. I missed her so much and I didn't even know who she was!"

"She was the key that began the process of unlocking your memories," Katrin said. "It must have been wound so deep in your psyche that it survived the process. Incredible."

Janet found a requisition pad in the outer office and wrote her requirements on it adding a message to General Hammond that it was imperative the supplies got here in the next half hour and that his missing people were generally in good health. Colonel Dixon dialled up the SGC and took the message through himself. He had four kids of his own and despite his own often sourly expressed views on children as a species loved them fiercely.

Twenty minutes later and Sam's baby had crowned. Janet and Katrin were prepared. Then Sam asked for O'Neill. "It's his child," she confessed to Janet, tearfully. "When we were Alar and Taylah, when we were husband and wife and I got… he was going to be with me for the birth. But now..." Tears sparkled in her blue eyes. "Oh God it's all so messed up."

Janet tried to hide the spark of jealousy that flared inside her at that piece of information. "Okay. Katrin, could you ask Colonel O'Neill if he wants to be present for the birth?" The woman nodded and with a reassuring squeeze of Sam's hand, left the room.

"Janet, I'm afraid," Sam said softly once they were alone again. "Are we going to be all right? I mean, I've only got about half of my memory back but I know how important we were to each other and how much I loved you. And that we have to keep it secret. But I've been gone so long. I won't blame you if you've moved on..." she let out a short bark of laughter that turned into a hiss of pain. "I mean, here I am giving birth to another man's child and all. And not just any man - the Colonel's!"

"I love you, Sam," Janet said quietly. "And no, I haven't moved on. I still love you as much as I did the day you were taken. I couldn't... I knew that you were not dead, that somehow you would find your way home to me again. I had dreams about you as well. Every night…"

The door opened and Katrin came in with O'Neill. Teal'c took up position outside the door.

"Taylah?" he said, huskily. "Is everything okay?"

"We're having a baby," she smiled holding out her hand to him. He took it, held on to her as if she was the most precious thing in his world. Then another contraction speared her and Katrin and Janet encouraged her to push. The baby's head emerged, pale skin topped with dark cinnamon curls, greased with blood and mucus.

"Nearly there, Sam," Janet encouraged. "A couple more big pushes and it will all be over. How's the pain?" Sam just groaned, the skin around her eyes pale and tight. Katrin frowned and made another adjustment to the device attached to Sam's temple. Sam's breathing deepened again.

"Better, thank you," she managed to whisper. She glanced up in horror as Teal'c opened the door, aware of her less than elegant position.

"The items you requested have arrived, Dr Fraiser," he said. Janet drew the curtain round the bed to hide Sam from view.

"Okay, have them brought in and set up. So far there have been no complications but as Sam's baby is approximately six weeks early I don't want to take any chances."

She disappeared behind the curtain again. Sam's eyes were closed, her expression one of intense concentration and she was breathing hard, her blond hair matted to her skull. She was holding on to the Colonel's hand so hard that her knuckles were white. She moaned loudly as the next contraction started and Janet and Katrin urged her to push. With his uncrushed hand, O'Neill wiped her face and neck with a damp towel. Sam gazed at him uncomprehendingly, tears in her eyes. "Please make it stop, make it stop," she whispered before letting out one last choked scream. Janet eased out first one shoulder and the second and gently pulled as the rest of the child's body followed smoothly in a slick of mucus and blood. It was a girl.

"Sam - Jack - you have a beautiful baby girl," Janet said, carefully wiping the mucus from the child's mouth and nose and aspirating her. The tiny chest hitched, the crumpled face pinked up and she began to wail loudly. Janet laid her face down on Sam's belly and tied off the cord. "Colonel - Alar, would you like to cut the cord?" Tears streaming down her flushed cheeks, Sam was gently stroking her baby's back as she opened bleared blue eyes and waved a tiny fist at her mother. O'Neill cut the cord and then stood, looking stunned. Katrin helped Janet to check Sam over as the afterbirth came away and then Janet checked over the baby, washing her and taking her vital measurements and checking her breathing and reactions whilst Katrin washed Sam and made her comfortable. Then Janet came over with the baby girl wrapped in a blanket and laid her in Sam's arms.

"She's so beautiful, Sam. And healthy. She doesn't really need to be in an incubator, her blood oxygen levels and her reaction tests are all fine, but we'll keep a close eye on her for a few days. For the record she is seventeen inches long and weighs six pounds and eight ounces. Have you thought of any names?"

"Elyssa," O'Neill said slowly. "If it … if our baby… was a girl we were going to call her Elyssa. You liked the name... Taylah liked the name, remember?"

Janet froze. Elyssa was her middle name - a closely guarded secret. Most people thought that the E in her signature stood for Elizabeth and she was careful not to lead people to think any different. Sam had even gone so far as to hack into the base personnel files to find out what it really was when Janet refused to tell her even under the most intense tickle torture. Elyssa... She could not remember why she had always disliked the name. Perhaps it was just in relation to her own self. For the small bundle of humanity in Sam's arms it seemed a perfectly reasonable name. She smiled and reached out to gently touch the damp curls on the baby's head but before she completed the gesture, her attention was taken by O'Neill, who groaned, paling slightly, sweat standing out on his brow.

"He needs rest,' Katrin said. 'The drugs I gave him earlier to break down the conditioning treatment are beginning to work. He will run a fever for a few days as the toxins break down and his memories will slowly return. I will see to him." Teal'c helped her to guide the colonel back to his temporary quarters leaving Janet and Sam alone together for the first time. Sam cradled her daughter, dropping a featherlight kiss on her brow, smoothing the still damp cinnamon curls. Janet sat on the bed beside her, looked fondly on the two miracles.

"It's so good to have you back," Janet said softly.

"It's good to be back and to see you and know that you are real," Sam said, resting her head on Janet's shoulder. "For months they told me that my memories of you were a sickness, a psychosis. They said it was due to the naquada from working on the Starwheel, that somehow it had contaminated me, that it was in my bloodstream, poisoning my mind causing hallucinations." Slow tears coursed down her cheeks. "I knew they were lying but I didn't know how I could ever prove it apart from by doing what they wanted me to do which was to build their Starwheel - their Stargate. If I made a fuss or refused to work any more on the project I knew that they would put me in hospital. And I was afraid that they would do something to the baby. One of the Directors had already told me that my pregnancy should never have been allowed. I tried to tell Alar of my fears but he said it was paranoia, just another symptom of the contamination. And somehow I knew that the Starwheel – the Stargate - would be my salvation. And I could not put Alar - the Colonel - in danger. He was already worried about me and the baby." Sam looked down at her sleeping daughter, blinking back her tears. "Then Katrin told me the truth of what I was, who I had been and what had been done to me. She took a huge risk. I owe her a great deal."

Janet could feel Sam's head lolling heavily against her shoulder.

"You're exhausted," she said softly. "Let me get Elyssa settled in her cot and then we'll make you comfortable."

O'Neill remembered a large dim space, cold, smelly, the air thin and tainted, the light dim orangeblue - the cargo hold of a space ship. There were anything up to a hundred people in the room at any one time the numbers changing as some were taken out and others brought in. Getting food was a battle, at irregular intervals a hatch would open and a basket of bread rolls that tasted like cotton and cardboard and some kind of small hardskinned fruit would be tossed in. There was never enough to go round. Then vents in the ceiling would open and water would pour in for a few minutes. They collected as much as they could to drink or just stood under it to bathe. But they were permanently cold and damp as a result. Already injured during their capture and after a few days in those conditions he had developed a fever that rapidly turned into pneumonia. He could not watch her back. In the anarchy a beauty such as Sam's was highly prized, her remaining clothing and equipment even more so. On her way back from collecting food she was attacked. Though she gave a good account of herself, she was overcome by sheer weight of numbers. The food she had collected was taken from her and her clothing ripped, her boots stolen. Though she was not raped, the sexual assault was terrifying and humiliating and the threat of further violence both to her and her injured companion very real.

The next day they reached Tirana and were taken from the holding cell to the sales room.

Sam retained no memory of the mind scan, but O'Neill did. He had been held in a pen with about six others when they took Carter. She struggled hard as they dragged her out of the pen, kicking and bucking, screaming her lungs out before one of the men touched the base of her spine with what looked like a taser and she went limp. Her unresisting body was undressed and laid out on a grid. Her head was positioned and marked with sensors and a bright green beam of light began to play over her body, strobing faster and faster. A loud pulsing noise echoed around the room. Jack stared at the naked body of his 2IC, the woman with whom, according to base scuttlebutt he had been having a torrid affair with for the past five years. Or Daniel had. He had even heard Teal'c's name mentioned once or twice. As long as no one discovered the truth because no matter how big a genius she was and how many times she saved the planet, the truth would kill her career stone dead.

She had lost weight. They both had. Her ribs and collarbones stood out clearly as did her hipbones. He could also see the deep bruising where those neanderthals had handled her. He had tried to keep track of the days since their capture but it had been impossible. He thought at least three weeks now. Her eyes were opening and closing. The machine she was hooked to seemed to realise this and the beam of light shifted to a spot between her eyes that seemed to grow in intensity. He heard Carter scream, his hands clawing at the bars of the pen desperate to help her.

Then it was over. Carter had some sort of convulsion and passed out. They conferred for a few minutes over her and then her limp body was lifted onto a gurney and wheeled away. O'Neill was hauled out. He almost welcomed the taser that sent him to oblivion.

All this came back to him as the conditioning drugs were flushed from his system. Teal'c and Daniel Jackson, who came through to the Alpha site as soon as he heard of his team mates reappearance sat with him as his memory returned and he tried to reconcile the truths that had governed his life with what he had done over the past year. It was some small consolation that even with his memory, his history removed, his personality overwritten he had remained an honourable man.

Hammond read over O'Neill's report of what he could recall of the events of his capture and incarceration aboard the slaver's vessel. Daniel Jackson and Teal'c had told him at the time that O'Neill had been injured covering their retreat from the ambush and that Sam Carter had gone back to retrieve him and help him back to the Gate. Unfortunately their position had been overwhelmed and they had been taken.

He picked up Major Carter's report. She was able to go into more detail about how she had fashioned their escape with the help of Katrin Frasno. She wrote of her regret at duping her assistant Broudie and her hope that he had not suffered any retribution for her actions. She also recounted how she had taken steps to wipe the memory core of the Starwheel computers. It would take them weeks to get up and running again. And they would have to come up with any Gate addresses from scratch.

Both officers had testified to the fact that at the time they began their relationship and young Elyssa Carter was conceived they had no memory of their true identities and the regulations that should have governed their relationship. Katrin Frasno corroborated their story that due to the chemical suppressants they would have had no conscious memory of their former lives. In any case O'Neill had immediately tendered his resignation to protect Major Carter's career and reputation and almost simultaneously Sam Carter had requested to resign her commission but to stay at the SGC in a civilian capacity if that could be arranged. Meanwhile both officers remained on Medical Leave. Hammond knew he would pull in every marker he had to keep both officers with the programme. They were far too valuable to lose.

They had been back on Earth for three weeks when Jack finally bowed to the inevitable and came to see Sam and his daughter. Janet made herself scarce upstairs leaving the two of them with Elyssa in the den.

"I've been looking at the regulations concerning off-world marriages and basically it's up to us whether we get it ratified or just, well, forget it ever happened, I suppose," he said.

"No offense, sir, but I think it's pretty high on the list of things I'd rather forget," Sam said. Her daughter looked so small in his arms, yet curiously right. Seeing them together like this no one would be fooled for an instant that they were not closely related. Apart from his colouring she had his nose and jawline. But her eyes remained the same startling blue as Sam's own.

"We've been here before with the alternates. I care for you, sir, as my commanding officer and above that as my friend. You must know that. But in all those places where we had a relationship that went beyond that there was someone else missing."

"Janet," he said softly.

Sam nodded, glad that she did not have to spell it out. "Sir, please understand that I want you to be a big part of our daughter's life, but that I don't want to live with you or marry you, no matter if you think it's the right thing to do. I know that there is provision for off-world marriages to be recognized but I don't want that to happen in this case. To be honest, sir it makes me angry that the same administration that would allow you and I to be together on that basis won't allow Janet and I the same courtesy. So, that's how it has to be, sir. I love Janet and Janet loves me. We are going to bring up Elyssa together. You can see her whenever you want. I want you – need you – to be a part of our daughter's life. We can make this arrangement legal if you would prefer or just see how things work out."

"Whatever you want," Jack said. "Just don't shut me out." He moved to embrace her then thought better of it. It was difficult. He had a whole set of memories of being married to this woman – or at least to her twin sister. Perhaps that was how he should try to think of it. Not Carter – just someone who happened to look a hell of a lot like her. It wasn't too big a shift for him after all.

Katrin had made her feelings for him clear over the last weeks. He was still working out how he felt about her. The anger at her complicity in his memory stamping had faded a little. And she had been there for Carter. She had been granted asylum for the moment. And she was an attractive, intelligent woman. But he was in no mood to rush into things.

"I'd never do that, sir," Sam said warmly. "Jack…," she smiled and reached out to touch his hand but at the last moment thought better of it and softly stroked her daughter's cheek instead as she lay fast asleep in his arms.

"So I hear you're going over to the geek squad," O'Neill said.

"I'm heading up the newly created scientific division," Sam corrected him with a smile. "It'll be as near nine to five as I can make it. I don't want to miss out anything with this little one. And you're training the new SG teams?"

"So it seems. God help me. God help them!" They shared a smile at that and memories of the training scenarios they had put new recruits through in the past. "It won't be the same, though."

The decision had been made to retire the name SG1. Judgment was that it was too big a reputation to try to live up to. Like Sam, Daniel headed up a new largely civililan archaeological division going off world with teams as required but mainly earth-based. And Teal'c was now the official liaison with the rapidly emerging Free Jaffa merging traditional Jaffa battle techniques with what he had learnt from his time among the Tauri.

Janet came in with a warmed bottle just as Elyssa began to fuss. "Like clockwork," she smiled. "She knows her routine better than we do. Jack – would you like to do the honours?"

A slightly shocked expression on his face Jack accepted the bottle and fed his baby daughter. Janet joined Sam on the sofa to watch. A quick embrace told her that the talk had gone well.

Janet remembered the day a little over three months ago in the garden, the anniversary of Sam's disappearance. She had come back, different, yes. The things that had happened to her – motherhood just being a part of that – could not have failed to have changed her. She was quieter, less certain of herself in some ways. But just watching her with Elyssa brought tears to Janet's eyes. She was going to be a great mother. Janet was surprised at how quickly she had fallen in love with the little girl herself to the point that she could not imagine a life without her in it. And Cassie adored her baby sister. And the Colonel, he seemed to have found a kind of peace as well. They both still had a place at the SGC. They both still had a place in her life.

"Here you go," Jack handed Elyssa over to her. "Gotta go ladies. I'll be in touch about arranging some time to be with Elyssa."

"That's great, Jack," Sam said. She showed him out and then came to stand behind the sofa where Janet was curled up, Elyssa gazing intently up at her. Janet glanced up to see a matching pair of eyes staring down at her with equal intensity.

"I think it's all going to work out," she said softly.

"I have you back, that's all that matters," Janet said, reaching up to steal a kiss.

"I'm just glad that you weren't a figment of my imagination after all." Her daughter looked to be falling asleep again. "What say we put this little one in her cot and have ourselves a quiet night in?"

"That sounds just about perfect."

The End

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