Summary: Janet Fraiser is given the chance of a lifetime; to join a top-secret military team on missions to other worlds. She accepts, but doesn't realize the consequences
Info: This is the first in a series, but I don't know how long it will end up being. I don't know if I'll do the entire series, but it's a fair bet that I will at least cover Seasons 1 and 2. The title and series title are both from Josh Ritter's song "Potter's Wheel
The General's office was sparse, like the cubicle of some office drone. O'Neill understood the lack of decorations; Hammond's plan was to step in, oversee the shutdown of the SGC, and then quietly retire. Why bother hanging pictures at what basically amounted to a way station? That was probably going to change now, however. He knocked on the door frame and Hammond looked up. "I was wondering if I could have a word, General."
Hammond waved him in and closed the screen of his laptop. "What can I do for you, Colonel?"
"I noticed you had an astrophysicist listed on the roster for the trip through the Gate. I'd like to suggest an alternate."
"Colonel, Captain Carter has--"
"This has nothing to do with my feelings for scientists, sir," O'Neill interrupted. "The last time we were on Abydos, we saw deplorable living conditions. People were sick and dying in the streets, and no one seemed to think anything of it. With respect to your decision to send a scientist with us, I would prefer we took a medical doctor. It would make more sense than a scientist, considering what we've seen on that world."
Hammond considered the proposal. "If this base becomes operational, we're going to need the Chief Medical Officer here in case of emergencies."
"Understood, sir. I actually had someone in mind. During the Gulf War, I was... treated for some very serious injuries. There was a doctor in charge; I got to know her pretty well. She's an expert in exotic diseases. She's Air Force; a captain. Seems to me she would be the ideal person to go on this mission."
Hammond leaned back in his chair and considered for a long moment. Finally, he nodded and said, "Agreed, Colonel. Providing this doctor is available, I'll assign her to your team."
"Thank you, General. Her name is Janet Fraiser."
Samantha Carter woke early, showered for almost twenty-five minutes, brushed her teeth twice, and slipped into her dress blues. She wanted to make a good first impression. She checked her watch as she grabbed her bag, smiling when she saw that she would reach the mountain a full half hour early. She came straight from the airport to the hotel the night before, and hardly slept at all in anticipation of what she was being asked to do. Finally, after all this time, she was going off-world.
She opened the door and was brought up short by an officer standing in front of it. His hand was raised to knock, and he looked as surprised as she was. "Oh. Captain Carter." He lowered his hand. "Good timing, I suppose."
"Are you my ride?" she asked.
"Actually, no. I'm sorry, Captain, but I'm afraid the roster has been filled."
Sam stared at him. She couldn't understand what he was saying. She furrowed her brow and shook her head. "Wh-what? I... yes, I'm on the roster."
"No, ma'am. I'm afraid you're not. The mission commander requested a substitution, and General Hammond agreed."
"I've been bumped?" Sam said. Her face felt hot and she prayed she wasn't blushing. She tightened her jaw and looked away from the officer.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. General Hammond has requested you come to the SGC regardless of this set-back. He's sure there will be a place for you--"
"Thank you," Sam snapped.
"He requested I drive--"
"That won't be necessary," Sam said. She slammed the door in his face, turned around, and hurled her bag at the far corner of the room.
Captain Janet Fraiser walked into the massive Gate Room and stared at the impossible object standing to her right. "Oh, my God," she whispered. The airman who was escorting her smiled and moved toward the ramp. "I saw the photographs in the file, but I never... wow. This is... amazing. This is unbelievable."
"This is why we bring the tours through here as soon as possible."
Janet turned at the sound of the voice, smiling when she saw the familiar face of Jack O'Neill. "Colonel. It's very good to see you up and around. How is..."
"Everything's fine," O'Neill said, cutting off any and all personal inquiries.
Janet nodded and gestured at the Stargate. "This is phenomenal, Colonel. I'm amazed you requested me on this mission."
"We needed a doctor. You're the best I've ever seen."
"That is quite a change from what you were calling me in the desert." She had a mental flash of a weak, sweating Jack O'Neill, his skin baked nearly black by the sun, gnashing his teeth and barking insults at her as she worked on his legs. She saw herself barking back at him and pushing him back down to the mattress so she could work. "When I heard your name on the phone, I thought you might finally be suing me for malpractice."
"Not yet, at least. Come on. The mission briefing is starting." She thanked the airman who had escorted her to Level 28, and she followed O'Neill to the stairs. "You got here fast."
"I have an office at the Air Force Academy Hospital. I was just a cab ride away."
He smiled over his shoulder at her. "I guess it's meant to be, then."
Janet smiled and followed him into the briefing room.
Sam was at Cheyenne Mountain in time to see the team depart through the Stargate. At first she refused to watch; it would be salt in the wound and it would only make her mad. But she eventually broke into a run and made it to the control room just as the first group was heading up the ramp. The Stargate was magnificent and, upon seeing it active for the first time, she forgot to be angry. All she could do was stare as people in desert BDUs disappeared through the swirling event horizon. "Incredible," she breathed.
A technician turned and saw her. "Are you supposed to be in here?"
"More than you know," Sam said, tears burning the corners of her eyes. In the Gate Room, Hammond turned away from the departing group and spotted her through the glass. He lifted his hand in greeting and pointed toward the stairs. Sam nodded and moved to intercept him. She wiped her hand over her eyes to clear them of any moisture before she met Hammond.
He offered a smile when they met in the corridor. "Sam. It's good to see you again." She nodded curtly and Hammond looked away. "We should speak in my office."
"Yeah," she said. She let him lead the way up the stairs. When they were safely behind the closed doors, Sam said, "I was bumped?"
"Colonel O'Neill requested a last-minute substitution. His previous experience on Abydos showed him that a medical doctor would be of more use than an astrophysicist. Add to the fact Dr. Jackson may be suffering ill effects from a year in an alien environment, I had to agree with the Colonel's request." He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the edge of his desk. "I apologize, Sam. I know how much this mission meant to you. I did my best to make sure you got the placement you deserved."
Sam nodded. "Well. I would hate to end up on the team just because you and my father were friends."
"It wasn't like that, Sam."
"Right," Sam said.
Hammond sighed. "I want to offer you a position here at the SGC. If we do reopen this facility, we're going to have to use it as a base of operations. I'd like you to be the head of the science department. It would be similar to what you're doing at the Pentagon, only you'd be closer to the front lines. You would have the opportunity to inspect artifacts as they come through the Stargate."
Sam nodded slowly. "I guess I don't have a choice."
"I am sorry, Sam. I know how much this meant to you."
Sam pushed herself up and said, "Do I have a lab?"
"Yes. Level 21."
She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "I should probably go take a look at it. Thank you, sir, for trying."
Hammond nodded and watched his oldest friend's youngest child walk out of his office like her every dream had just been dashed to pieces. He leaned back in his chair and let out a weary sigh.
Janet sucked in a deep breath through her nostrils, her back straight and her shoulders back. She pressed her lips together, turned, and dropped to her knees just as her lunch came back to haunt her. She was humiliated, and pressed the soft cuff of her uniform jacket to her lips as she turned to see if anyone had witnessed her moment of weakness. She was relieved to see two other members of the team hunched over, spitting and wiping their mouths as well.
O'Neill put a hand on her shoulder as he passed. "You all right there, Doc?"
"I knew this was revenge for me torturing you. I just didn't know how it would--" She bent forward again and O'Neill wrinkled his nose.
"Whenever you're ready, Fraiser."
"I'm fine," Janet said. Her voice was rough, but she felt that her stomach was settled enough to move. She straightened her back and scanned the room that housed the Stargate. Her mind swore to her that she was in Colorado Springs. How could she have gone much farther with just a single step? Logically, this room had to be part of the Cheyenne Mountain facility.
But logical didn't work when fine grains of sand blew through the air. Reason didn't explain why it was suddenly stifling and hot. Ice had formed on her face, uniform and helmet, but it was already melted and joining beads of sweat over her face and under her shirt. On either side of the Stargate and dialing device were tall, stone pillars shrouded in darkness. The room smelled of smoke and ash, explained by a primitive cooking fire in the center of the room. Janet lifted her head and discovered she couldn't see the ceiling. The room was utterly massive.
Janet tried to absorb every sight, sound and smell available to her. The entire thing was just too surreal. She was in an ancient pyramid, larger than any in Egypt, wearing a helmet that kept trying to pull her head down, carrying a MP5. I'm going to wake up in fifteen minutes, in my office at the Academy Hospital, and I'm going to find out that one of my patients has explosive diarrhea.
Motion from the corner of her eye caught her attention, and her eyes widened. Before she could shout a warning, the team was surrounded by a group of heavily armed children. Feretti and Kawalsky both leveled their weapons at the kids, but neither looked prepared to actually open fire. O'Neill didn't even look surprised by the sudden ambush.
Suddenly, a man burst from the shadows with his hands raised, shouting to the children in their native language. His face was pocked from being out in too many sandstorms, his hair long and unwashed. He wore the robes that seemed to be standard dress code in the pyramid, but it was easy for Janet to tell he was out of place. The man switched to English and said, "Lower your guns." The kids did as he said, and he walked up to O'Neill. "Hello, Jack. Uh... welcome back."
Janet smiled. The man was Dr. Daniel Jackson, the man they had come to rescue. She lowered her weapon and let the tension seep from her body. At least the mission was going to be an easy one.
"If the project is reopened," Hammond had said. Stargate Command was currently entering its third week of operations, and Sam was only just starting to get her feet underneath her. She was trying to put together a science department in charge of possibly the most impressive artifact ever discovered, while interviewing and hiring a support staff of scientists to back her up, and simultaneously attempting to find a permanent residence in Colorado Springs.
When O'Neill's team returned from Abydos, Sam nearly shouted with envy. A dialing device, a cartouche of Stargate addresses, a universe full of Stargates... it was the archaeological find of the century, and she had been stuck at the base, dusting off computers and work spaces. She was, putting aside modesty, one of the most brilliant minds on the planet, and she was being wasted behind a desk.
She couldn't help but wonder if the project was cursed from the beginning. Sha're and Ska'ara were both gone, blended with Goa'uld symbiotes. Kawalsky was dead. Captain Fraiser had just recently identified an unusual virus on P3X-797 that kept them from coming home immediately. Colonel O'Neill had regressed to a primitive state, thus confirming Fraiser's fear that they should be quarantined. She discovered a cure - as simple as antihistamine injections - and the team came back healthy through the Stargate. Still, it was a sign of just how dangerous the universe was.
Sam hated thinking that the doctor had saved the day, but she knew a virus like that loose on Earth could have been catastrophic. Even if it had been contained to the SGC, the thought of soldiers becoming close to Neanderthals, with all their training and weaponry, was too dark to even consider.
Captain Janet Fraiser, a doctor. Sam pressed hard enough with her pencil to leave a black crater in the page. She lifted her hand before the pencil could break and leaned back in her chair. Across the room, Jay Felger was busy with some calculation she assigned to him. Sam watched him work and then tossed down her pencil. "I'm going to get some lunch."
"Oh," Felger said. "I-I wasn't quite done, but I guess, yeah, I could join--"
"I wasn't inviting you," Sam said without bothering to turn around. "Hold down the fort."
She rode the elevator down to Level 28 and casually joined the technicians and airmen milling about. She made her way to the Gate Room and walked to the base of the ramp. No one was scheduled back or to leave for another half hour; she had the departure schedule memorized. Nine SG units were now in operation. If she hadn't taken Hammond's offer to head the science department, she could have joined one of those teams.
Sam walked up the ramp until she was standing in front of the Gate. "Damn it," she muttered. She walked to one side and rested her hand against the stone.
Finally, she pulled her hand back and turned to leave. She saw General Hammond in the control room, watching her. She met his eyes and then quickly looked away. He had to know how it was killing her to be here, to be so near the Stargate but not allowed to go through it. She broke their staring contest and walked down the ramp. Her boots sounded hollow on the metal. I could be returning from a mission, kicking the mud of some alien world from my treads. Instead, I'm going to the commissary with a crick in my neck and eye strain from staring at a computer screen all day. Some life.
"Samantha," someone said as she passed a lab. "As I live and breathe."
She turned and barely managed to stifle a groan. Jonas Hanson hurried to catch up with her, his infectious grin spreading across his face. Sam didn't feel like smiling, so she turned and continued walking. "Hi, Jonas. I heard you got transferred here."
"A couple of weeks ago. You wouldn't be avoiding me, would you?"
"No, Jonas. We parted on good terms."
He shrugged. "Well, I thought so. I mean, as good as you can get when you return an engagement ring. Listen, let's catch up. Dinner?"
"I was just on my way to lunch."
Sam hesitated. The way her life was going, a nice lunch with someone she once cared about could make all the difference. Jonas wasn't right as a husband, but they were a good couple for a while. He was funny, charming, and he made her feel beautiful. He made her feel like she was more than just an answer machine. She sighed and said, "All right, Jonas. Lunch."
He smiled and hooked his arm around hers. "I know this great little place a few levels up. Kind of a little secret hideaway. French place. La Comisarie."
Sam laughed as they stepped into the elevator. She resisted the urge to reach up and touch her cheeks just to see what it felt like. Jonas might not be the catch she had always dreamed of, but at least he could make her smile even on her worst day.
Janet was allowed to keep a medical office at the SGC, although she was becoming more and more comfortable with referring to herself as "Captain" rather than "Doctor." Following O'Neill onto the front lines, she made peace with the knowledge she needed a gun more often than a syringe. But she wouldn't trade what she was doing for anything in the world. She was seeing viruses no other doctor had ever encountered, curing diseases that were extinct on Earth. It was an incredibly rare opportunity, and she was grateful to the SGC for giving her the chance.
She was also used to the garrison uniforms that seemed to be the off-duty outfit on the base. At first she missed her blouse and skirt, but she never once mourned losing her high heels. Putting on the blue garrison outfit, loose jacket and slacks, was like slipping into a pair of pajamas. And she had stolen several of the large black T-shirts to use as actual pajamas.
It was odd walking into the infirmary and seeing someone else in charge. It was easier to accept since she had never been in charge of this particular infirmary, but it was difficult to keep from jumping up and taking charge. Dr. Warner was a capable physician, so she assumed the effect would wear off eventually.
She was currently on one of her casual tours of the facility. She wanted to know where everything was, how to get there and how to get out, just so she wouldn't be wandering aimlessly during an emergency. She had just finished a tour of the commissary, and a sampling of a few dishes, when she first ran into Captain Samantha Carter. She stepped out of the elevator, arm-in-arm with the leader of SG-9. She smiled and held out her hand. "Oh. Captain Carter. We haven't been introduced."
"I know who you are," Carter said. The words were cordial, but the tone was anything but.
Janet's smile wavered and she lowered her hand as Carter continued toward the commissary. She watched the blonde walk away. Great. I'm thirty damn years old, and I'm still dealing with blonde sluts who think they own the world. Welcome to High School Air Force Base. She sighed and stepped into the elevator. Next stop, Level 23 and the exciting secondary and emergency engineering and power grids for the base.
Sam pushed back the blankets and sat on the edge of the bed. Another stellar decision, Sam, she thought as she found her underwear on the floor. Smartest woman on Earth, my ass. My sore ass. She winced as her underwear brushed over the sensitive flesh. She forgot how Jonas liked to rough her up during sex. A slap here, a spanking there. She reached up and ran a hand through her hair, mainly to make sure it was all still there. He liked to pull, too.
Jonas shifted on the mattress behind her, and he reached up to touch her back. She closed her eyes and scolded herself, told herself not to be seduced by the gentle caress. "Come back to bed," he said. His voice was rough with sleep and desire.
"I should go. Early morning."
He scoffed. "Doing what? Pushing papers? Staring at a computer screen? Who's going to notice if you're late."
Sam pulled away from his touch and grabbed the rest of her clothes. She wanted to thank him for making the decision to leave so easy, but she didn't want to give him any credit.
Jonas sat up and leaned back against the headboard. "So you're leaving?" he said, sounding resigned.
"Yeah. And this probably shouldn't happen again. It's not right, with us working together."
"We don't work together," Jonas laughed. "You're a lab tech."
She wanted to throw something at him, but the only things that would cause damage were her shoes. And she liked her shoes. Sam finished dressing at the foot of the bed and carried her shoes to the door. "Good-bye, Jonas."
"Yeah," he grunted.
Sam left his apartment and leaned against the hallway wall to put her shoes on. She was furious with herself. A lunch at the SGC, an offer to give her a ride home, and somewhere between Cheyenne Mountain and his apartment, she had regressed back to the woman who accepted his invitation. The na´ve Captain who got breathless when a handsome man smiled at her, who felt a chill when he touched her hand.
Going to bed with him was familiar. She felt wanted, and desirable when his hands slipped under her blouse to cup her breasts. For a moment, she had fooled herself into thinking she had underestimated him. Then, of course, he pressed her face to the wall, pushed up her skirt, and she was reminded of all the bad times, and all the reasons she finally cut herself free from him.
As she went down the stairs, another thought struck her. If I ever end up on an SG team now, I'm ruined. People saw me having lunch with him. People could easily find out our history. Shit. It'll look like I slept my way onto a team. She shook her head and groaned. It didn't matter what the truth was, all anyone would see is the timeline.
"You really stepped in it this time, Carter," she muttered. She stepped to the curb and lifted her arm, praying a cab would stop for her.
Daniel scanned the canopy as he stepped down from the Stargate platform. "For a planet with a UV radiation as high as this one's supposed to have, the plant life seems to be doing very well."
"I'm just happy there aren't more planets like Abydos out there," Janet said. "No offense, Daniel, but desert worlds would get tired pretty quickly."
"Well, it makes sense," Daniel said. "I mean, if a planet does support human life, there must be some sort of carbon-based vegetation, right?"
Teal'c said, "It is no accident. Many Stargate worlds were terra-formed by the Goa'uld centuries ago."
O'Neill, obviously done with the botany lesson, said, "Okay. Let's take a quick look around the Gate before we move out to find SG-9."
Janet moved off to what she assumed, using the sun as a guide, was north. Teal'c joined her, and she had to fight not to tense as he approached. Two months ago, she'd never even heard of the Jaffa. Now she was on a team with one, fighting side by side. She hated the anxiety she felt around him and made a point to get to know him better. She craned her neck to look up at the trees and smiled, reminded of weekends at her Granny's house. It was exactly the same, except it was a little more humid and... she tilted her head to one side.
"Is there a problem, Captain Fraiser?"
Janet jumped. She hadn't realized Teal'c was so close to her. She gestured at the trees and said, "It's quiet. No birds."
Suddenly, she heard Daniel shout from a few yards away. She tightened her grip on her gun and ran through the fallen leaves, Teal'c quickly overtaking her. In seconds, they arrived to find Daniel being held hostage by a man in battered SG fatigues, a gun pressed to Daniel's neck. O'Neill stood behind the soldier, a gun aimed at the soldier's temple.
Janet brought her gun up, eyes wide as she watched O'Neill defuse the situation. She pressed her lips together and shook her head slowly. Just another day in the galaxy.
Janet spent most of the mission concerned about the radiation burns suffered by the majority of the population. Jonas was killing them by forcing them to work unprotected in the sun. The team lay prone on a cliff, watching as a group of the natives toiled to build Hanson's temple. O'Neill had gone off in an attempt to rescue Connor, and Janet was trying her best to keep her medical brain quiet. She took the binoculars from Daniel in time to see one of the workers being beaten by a member of SG-9.
Something inside of her twisted, and she knew there was only one option. She handed the binoculars back to Daniel and said, "Stay here."
"Where are you going?"
"A member of the SGC is beating that man to death. I can't just watch." She turned and hurried down the incline toward the workers before Daniel or Teal'c could talk her out of it. A few workers paused to watch this mysterious new arrival rushing toward one of their 'gods,' but they didn't look for long. The punishment for slacking was harsh.
Janet grabbed the man's arm on an upswing and wrenched the gun out of his grip. He turned to her and she slammed the barrel of her gun into his face. The man recoiled and fell to the ground. By the time Janet was sure he wasn't getting up, two other officers were rushing toward her with guns drawn. Janet sighed and put her hands up. "Well. Colonel O'Neill did tell me to find a way inside..."
The guards led her into Jonas' tent. It was decorated in typical over-stated decadence. Jonas was sprawled across a throne on the far side of the room, his face hidden by a hood. Janet wanted to throw up; that a member of the SGC, a soldier in the United States Air Force, would do this to people just to play god.
Jonas threw off his hood and frowned at her. "You're not her. Where is Captain Carter?"
"Back on Earth," Janet said.
Jonas growled and pushed himself out of his throne. "No! Samantha was supposed to come. This entire... the plan depends upon Sam being here." He pulled his gun out from underneath his robe and leveled it at Janet's head. "Dial the Gate. Bring Samantha here."
Janet straightened her shoulders. "No."
He cocked the gun and stepped closer. Janet stared down the dark barrel of the weapon, but showed no fear. "Do it. Or I will kill you where you stand."
Janet let him get a little closer before she made her move.
Sam couldn't stay away from the infirmary. She waited until the excitement died down, a time when she thought she would be able to get in and out unnoticed. The infirmary lights were turned low, giving the place a feel of premature night. Jonas' body was in a far bed, under a sheet. Sam pulled the sheet back and pulled down the zipper on the body bag. His eyes were closed, his skin clammy and pale. Her fingers involuntarily tensed on the bag and she backed away from the bed. The bullet had entered Jonas' forehead, killing him instantly.
Well, you son of a bitch. I figured it was only a matter of time. I never quite thought it would happen like this, though.
She zipped the bag shut again and slipped around the curtain. She stopped short when she realized the infirmary wasn't empty. Captain Fraiser was sitting on the floor, feet planted apart. Her hands were balled into fists on either side of her head. She still wore the off-world uniform, but the jacket was unzipped. She was staring at Sam.
"I just... I had to see."
Sam looked around and finally started to walk away. She was almost to the door when Fraiser said, "I'm sorry." Sam stopped. Fraiser pushed herself up and turned to face her. "I was the one who pulled the trigger. He was... out of control, Captain. I did what I had to do, for the good of the mission, and for the good of those people."
Sam didn't want to give absolution. She looked away and turned to leave the infirmary.
"Say it!" Fraiser suddenly snapped. Sam turned to face her and saw tears in her eyes. The dim lights caught them, made her eyes sparkle. "I need you to say it, damn it. I need you to say it was necessary." Her voice cracked and she turned away. She pressed a fist to her mouth and took a shuddering breath.
"You want me to forgive you?" Sam said.
"Fuck you." Fraiser's head snapped around. "Not for this. You're a soldier, damn it. Suck it up. But if you want absolution from me, you can go to hell."
Fraiser said, "What the hell did I ever do to you?"
"You stole everything from me," Sam said, storming back into the room. She aimed a finger at Janet. "Everything. For two years, I worked on the Stargate program. I went days, weeks without sleep trying to solve this puzzle. And then Daniel Jackson waltzes in and solves it in two weeks." She laughed mirthlessly. "Two weeks. But that was fine. I'm a scientist, and it's not about who gets the credit. Someone else saved the day, sure, but I would at least get to go through the Stargate.
"Except I didn't. I wasn't even invited the first time. I thought the chance of a lifetime had passed me by. But then, wonder of wonders, they decided to open the Stargate again a year later. This time, a friend of my father was in charge of the program. He offered me a position on the team. It reeked of nepotism, of course, but I knew I would prove myself worthy if given a chance. So I flew out to Colorado Springs. And the... day we were scheduled to leave, they decided they want a medical doctor on the team instead. So I was kicked off once more. For you."
Janet listened to everything with silent tears tracking down her face. When Sam finished, eyes wide and face flush, Janet said, "I'm... so sorry. I had no idea."
"Right," Sam said. Her voice was a harsh whisper. "I just wanted to make sure he was dead. I'm sure. Thank you for pulling the trigger. The world is a little better place. You should be very proud." Sam turned and walked from the infirmary, leaving Janet alone in the darkness behind her.
For weeks afterward, Janet saw Jonas Hanson's body falling away from her. The horrible bloody mark she had made was burned into the front of her mind. Lady MacBeth's line kept repeating in her head. She finally scheduled a few sessions with a local psychiatrist, Kate Heightmeyer, to try working through her soldier-and-doctor dichotomy issues. The next time she went through the Stargate, she opened fire on Apophis with no troubles.
Her reward was that he promptly killed her and the rest of SG-1.
She woke an unknown amount of time after her death, lying in a dark room, with Daniel Jackson probing at her stomach through the hole in her T-shirt. "Buy a woman dinner first, Daniel," she said. Her voice was rough, and she ached from the hard bed where she had been sleeping. But aches were preferable to death.
"I felt that blast kill me," Daniel said. His voice was a mix of awe and confusion. "I mean... I thought... we were dead. Weren't we dead?"
Janet stared at the far wall of the room. The memories were fading, but she did remember something... else. Not the white light, not loved ones waving her forward, but something comforting. There was peace. And now that she was... back... if she had, indeed, ever gone anywhere, that peaceful feeling remained with her.
"We were," she said, in answer to Daniel's question. "We're not any more." She gestured at O'Neill and moved to make sure he was all right.
Sam leaned away from the microscope and squeezed the bridge of her nose. She was sick and tired of looking at the damn blue crystal that had copied Colonel O'Neill. The crystal was an entity, simple as that. It wasn't a technology they could learn how to backwards engineer, not a potential weapon. It was a being. A being they had taken from its home, and had lashed out only because an intruder frightened it.
"We should just leave the damn thing alone," she muttered. She pushed away from the table and turned to see Captain Fraiser standing in the doorway of the lab. She straightened the way most lab techs did when faced with a member of the elite SG units, and immediately chided herself for it. "What can I do for you?"
"I died," Fraiser said. "On the last mission, the rest of SG-1 and I were killed by Apophis. The only reason I'm standing here is because an amazingly advanced race... I don't know. Performed a miracle." Her voice was almost a whisper. "I don't know what I saw, or where I went. But I knew I would have left regrets if I hadn't come back. I am truly sorry for everything I've taken from you. If I had known, I..." She shook her head. "I wish things were different. You deserved this position so much more than I did. If there was a way to fix things, I would. I just wanted you to know that. I'm sincerely sorry." She cleared her throat and gestured at the table. "I'll leave you alone."
Sam waited until Fraiser was at the door before she said, "It's not your fault." Janet stopped, but didn't turn around. Sam was grateful for that. "You and I have both been in the military long enough to know you had nothing to do with it. It was... politics and macho maneuvering. You couldn't say no to an opportunity like this. I'm sorry."
Janet finally turned around. "Thank you, Captain. Does this mean we can be friends now?"
"No," Sam said. "But I don't see any reason why we can't be cordial."
Janet smiled and said, "Sounds like a fair compromise. I'll let you get back to work."
Sam nodded and looked down at the table. When Janet was gone, Sam lifted her head and looked at the empty doorway. She wasn't sure that she totally forgave Janet, even though she did accept that being kicked off the team wasn't Janet's fault. She had always been aware of that fact; it was just that she was finally letting herself admit it to herself. But regardless, the olive branch had been extended and she wasn't petty enough to retract it.
Besides. It would be nice to have one friend on base.
Their friendship was tense at first. They both still bore the scars of Carter's outburst in the infirmary. The first time they worked together was to counteract the effect of the nanites that were prematurely aging Colonel O'Neill on Argos. A blood disease caused by robotic cells seemed like the perfect collaboration. Janet invited Carter into the lab and they worked to find a way to disable or counteract the effect of the bugs.
Janet sighed and shook her head. "This is all way over my head. I can't make heads or tails of it."
"It's..." Sam cleared her throat. "A-at the Pentagon, I spent a year working with a group that was studying nanotechnology."
"Really," Janet said. She rolled her chair over to Sam's work station. "What do you suggest we do?"
"I introduced a sample of live tissue to see how the nanites interacted with it. I was hoping it would give us a clue to how they're causing the rapid aging."
Janet nodded. "What did you find out?"
"Nothing. They're just replicating without worrying about the tissue. There must be an outside component to what they're doing on Argos."
"Something in the air or food. You'd probably know better than I would. It's a medical issue, right?"
Janet pointed at the sample. "These are machines. Odds are they're being controlled by a machine." She thought and then shook her head. "But a machine with that sort of power... it would have to have been operating since Pelops left hundreds of years ago. I didn't see anything close to that on Argos."
"Well, these robots have to be getting their signals from somewhere."
Janet nodded and then said, "You'd be better equipped to find it than anyone." Sam leaned back and looked at her. Janet smiled. "Are you up for a field trip, Dr. Carter?"
"Stop it," Sam muttered. She adjusted the flak jacket on her shoulders, tugged the collar up, and took the helmet from the locker. "You're being ridiculous. Just stop it." She took a deep breath, closed the locker door, and left the gear-up room. She paused in the doorway, turning to look both ways down the corridor before she stepped out. No one stopped her, and no one appeared with a message. Don't worry, we figured it out. Better luck next time.
She made it all the way to the Gate Room, and saw Captain Fraiser waiting for her. Fraiser was wearing a similar uniform, but lacked a helmet. She smiled when she saw Sam approaching. "Off into the wild blue yonder," Janet said. "Are you ready?"
Sam nodded. "I am." She watched the Stargate spin through the dialing sequence. Since the program began, she coveted a chance to step through. Just once. Just a quick hop across the galaxy. The reality was that opening the Stargate was an enormous expenditure. The amount of power it required would power a small city for a year. They simply couldn't open it just so someone could see what it was like. But she was about to find out.
The Stargate opened with the magnificent vortex, and Sam blinked at the power of it. She always watched the openings, and she had watched more than most at the base, were always viewed from the control room or the briefing room. Always behind glass. Being in the same room with such awesome power was daunting. She swallowed and let Janet lead the way up the ramp. Janet glanced at Sam and said, "You're the foremost expert on this thing, right?"
"What? Oh. Yes."
"There's something I've wondered since the first time I saw it." She gestured at the inner ring. "Why does it spin?"
Sam opened her mouth to reply and then said, "It... well, the chevrons have to line up with the appropriate constellation to get a proper lock. Either the inner ring has to spin, or the outer ring would."
Janet nodded. "Oh. Did I take your mind off of it?"
"Off what?" Sam said, still eyeing the event horizon. She could almost feel static electricity on the tiny hairs of her eyebrows. Like it was trying to pull her in.
"What you're about to do. Scientists sometimes have a problem with it. The burden of knowledge."
"I'll be fine."
"Glad to hear it," Janet said. She put a hand on Sam's shoulder and said, "Sorry about this." She shoved and Sam stumbled forward. The event horizon wrapped itself around her, and she thought she could feel her cells being separated for the transportation. Before she knew what was happening, her foot skittered along a stone step.
She froze where she stood, eyes wide, head craning back to take in the sight of the temple all around her. Her mind reeled trying to make sense of what had just happened. Her body was torn apart, thrust across the galaxy in a matter of milliseconds, and reformed here in this magnificent place. All in the time it took her to exhale. Her mind refused to accept it, and refused to do much else until it was explained to her. Finally, she croaked, "Oh, my God."
"I know," Janet said. She walked past Sam and gestured. "Welcome to P3X-8596, Doctor. Otherwise known as Argos."
Sam looked at Janet and finally willed herself to move. "Thank you," she said when she found her breath. Janet smiled and said, "Do you need a minute?"
Sam sucked a deep breath into her lungs and shook her head. Her thinking was starting to clear. She was on an alien world. No big deal. "No. I'll be fine." She started down the steps, awed by her first experience with alien air, alien bricks beneath her boots. She wondered how far away from Earth they were, what the constellations looked like at night. The air tasted strange; was it because of the atmosphere or simply the stale temple air? Her mind was abuzz with questions, none of which she could articulate. Her stupefaction was for the best, however, as she spotted Daniel and O'Neill approaching from the opposite side of the temple.
It was time to get to work; she could sightsee later.
Janet was the one who convinced Sam to tag along to the post-mission beer bash. O'Neill made the suggestion just as Dr. Carter was leaving the briefing room, and she tapped his arm with her fingers. She nodded in Carter's direction, raising her eyebrows. O'Neill, to his benefit, was getting to understand her silent communications. Carter was the one who found Pelops' power supply, and she was the one who assured him his premature aging was temporary. Already he was looking decades younger.
"Hey, Carter," he said, just before she disappeared down the steps. She paused and looked back. "What do you say you join us for a celebration? An I'm-not-dying-tomorrow drink."
"I don't know..."
"Come on, Doctor," Janet said. "It'll be fun."
Carter hesitated another moment and then nodded.
The base doctor didn't want O'Neill leaving the base in his current condition, so the party was held in a private dining room off the commissary. It was usually reserved for visiting officials, officers who decided whether or not the base deserved more funding. Janet didn't really see the point in showing the money-lenders that the base had enough money for a superfluous dining room, but she wasn't the one in charge.
Sam was sitting at the table with the rest of SG-1, but she didn't allow herself to interact much. She smiled, laughed at the jokes, but otherwise tried to blend into the scenery. When O'Neill and Daniel decided to show Teal'c the human achievement of paper football, Janet moved down the table and sat across from Carter. "Hey."
"Hi. How long do these things usually last?"
Janet shrugged. "Depends on a lot of things. The Colonel doesn't have to drive, so it could go until midnight." She tapped her fingers on the edge of her glass and said, "I'm sorry you're not having fun."
Carter shook her head. "I'm not big on social gatherings. It's not your fault. I appreciate you inviting me."
"Colonel O'Neill invited you."
"Yeah," Carter said skeptically. She looked down at her beer, gauging how much was left in the glass, and said, "I should probably call it a night after this one. Thanks for including me tonight, Captain."
Carter hesitated and then nodded once. "You can call me Sam."
Janet smiled and sat with Sam until she finished her beer. She held up her empty glass, pressed her lips together, and said, "I'm going to call it quits. Thanks for tonight. It was really great. Probably the only really great night I've had since coming to Colorado."
"You know we have a zoo," O'Neill said. "Should check that out."
The women ignored him. "Drive safely, Sam."
Carter nodded and took her jacket off the back of her chair. "I'll see you tomorrow." It was directed at everyone, but she was looking at Janet when she said it.
Janet lifted her glass in a toast and, as Carter walked away, she said, "Night, Sam."
Carter stopped and turned. She waved shyly and then disappeared through the doors. Janet watched the doors swing as if she could still see Carter, her mind running wild with thoughts and possibilities. She finally broke out of her reverie when she realized O'Neill was waving her into Daniel's suddenly vacant seat. "What?"
"Be the goal posts," O'Neill said. "You have freakishly long fingers. You'll be great."
Janet lunged at O'Neill to give him a freakishly long pinch.
Sam swiped her key card through the scanner and stepped back to wait for the car to arrive. The Stargate program was in full swing, with artifacts coming through the Gate on an almost daily basis. She was going to need more researchers to keep up with the flow, even though they were constantly sending larger objects to Area 51 for a more in-depth analysis. Sam was surprised to find how much she enjoyed the process. Alien worlds and the Stargate had their appeal, but she was working with devices no one else on Earth had ever seen.
Each new strange device that crossed her desk was a chance to make up for having the Stargate mystery solved for her. It was a chance for redemption, and she had been squandering it. No more. The elevator doors parted and Sam took a step forward before she realized the car was occupied. Captain Fraiser - Janet - was leaning against the back wall of the car, staring down at the floor. Her hands were shoved deep into the pockets of her jacket, her lips pressed together in a tight line.
Sam waited for her to leave the car on her own and then said, "Captain? Is this your floor?"
Janet flinched as if she had been struck. She looked up and saw Sam, then gave the car and confused glance. She pushed away from the wall and cleared her throat. "I, uh... I-I was just heading to Level..." She frowned and closed her eyes. "I don't... remember. Where are you going?"
"Okay," Janet said.
Sam thought about pointing out that it wasn't an invitation, but she stepped into the car anyway. She pressed the button and moved to one side, giving Janet personal space. After a while, she glanced over and said, "Are you all right, Captain?"
Janet closed her eyes and shook her head. "Haven't slept. In, um... a really long time." Her voice was hoarse and she hugged herself tightly. "Not since, ah... D-Daniel."
"Oh," Sam said. The elevator doors opened and Sam said, "Come on. Let's get some lunch."
Janet pushed away from the wall and followed Sam out of the car. They walked down the corridor in silence, and Janet merely went through the motions of putting food on her tray. Sam watched her carefully, aware that she was in shock but with no idea what to do to help her. Everyone on the base learned the lesson early; the Stargate was dangerous and deadly. But the knowledge that someone could die with every new mission never really sunk in until a death became personal.
They sat at a table in the far corner of the room, away from eavesdroppers and other diners. Sam picked at the crust of her sandwich and said, "If you need to talk about anything... I'm not a great psychiatrist, but I can be a pretty good listener."
Janet smiled. "Thanks, Dr. Carter."
"Right," Janet whispered. She swallowed and looked down at her tray. "I keep thinking he's going to walk through the door."
Sam shifted uncomfortably in her chair and looked around to make sure they were alone. "When I was fourteen, I lost my mother." Janet looked up. "I don't remember... a lot about the weeks that followed. But I remember the funeral, and sitting in the attic. There was a willow tree in the back yard, and I watched it, and I kept thinking Mom would walk past it. She used to... lift her hand up and brush the branches with her fingers. And when the wind would move the branches, sometimes I thought that... I..." She cleared her throat and turned away.
"Did the pain ever go away?"
"No," Sam said. "But I learned to make it a part of me, without letting it take over."
"How?" Janet asked, and her voice cracked.
Sam shrugged. "It's different for everybody. You'll get through it. You're strong."
"Maybe not as strong as I make myself out to be."
"Stronger," Sam said.
Janet smiled. She rearranged the food on her tray and said, "Thank you, Sam."
Sam nodded and took a bite of her sandwich, embarrassed at how much she had revealed to a relative stranger. "The pain won't go away. But you'll learn to accept it. That's close as to making it better as we can hope to get."
"Yeah," Janet said. She picked up her sandwich and tentatively took a bite. They ate the rest of their meal in silence, speaking again only to say good-bye.
She found herself in the infirmary off and on a lot during the day Daniel was housed there. Most of the time he was asleep, and during his waking hours, he gave Hammond and O'Neill a briefing of what his 'incarceration' had been like. Janet didn't necessarily want to talk to him, although she was grateful to hear his voice. She just wanted to see him. To make sure her mind wasn't playing an elaborate trick on her. So many times, she hallucinated seeing him in the halls or walking down the Stargate ramp. And now, he was home, and she was close to making herself believe it was permanent.
Janet walked the halls of the SGC, trying to quiet the torment of her mind. He's alive. You can trust your senses again. The torment you went through was necessary, because it was all a lie. But she couldn't help wondering what would happen the next time. The SGC was a deadly assignment. Kawalsky was a lesson for everyone who put on the gear and headed up the ramp. The Goa'uld were dangerous, the galaxy even more so.
She reached Samantha Carter's lab on Level 21 and stopped at the open door. Sam was arguing with someone in a lab jacket, jabbing her finger at the computer screen. Janet craned her neck and recognized some of the Goa'uld artifacts she and SG-1 brought back from Cimmeria. She knew Sam was excited about the possibilities of discovering just how the Goa'uld operated their more advances devices with just a touch. If humans could somehow figure out how to duplicate that, it would go a long way in leveling the playing field. Sam turned away from the scientist with an angry shake of her head. She saw Janet out of the corner of her eye and looked up. Janet felt the urge to back away or apologize, ashamed of lurking, but Sam just nodded a greeting. "Is there something you need?"
"No," Janet said. She was well aware of everyone in the room. Sam's group of assistants and researchers. "I just wanted to say thank you. For the other day."
"Oh. No problem."
"It was a hard time. You helped me through it. I appreciate it." She reached into the pocket of her olive drab jacket and placed a white box on the edge of the nearest table. "It's not... I mean, I just wanted to say thank you."
Sam picked up the box and flipped open the top. Janet hated giving gifts, especially the part where she had to stand around and wait while the person pretended to like whatever it was. She always felt the need to apologize and produce the receipt so the person could return it. The receipt for this gift was, in fact, in the pocket of her uniform pants. She was about to reach for it when Sam said, "Thank you."
Janet realized Sam was staring into the box, unmoving, her body frighteningly still. Janet said, "I just thought... I thought of that story you told." Sam nodded. "Anyway. Thank you for talking to me about everything."
Sam took the golden pin from the box and held it in her hand. It was a small willow tree, simple and plain and barely bigger than a penny, and Janet was embarrassed about how cheap it really was. She didn't want Sam to think she'd bought some fine piece of jewelry and feel obligated to like it. Finally, Sam said, "Thank you, Janet. It's... it's beautiful. Thank you."
Janet nodded. "I'll let you get back to work."
Sam said, "Yeah. I'll see you later."
Janet retreated from the lab. As she walked toward the elevator, she realized that Sam's eyes hadn't left the willow pin for more than a second after she opened the package. She smiled. Guess she liked it.
This isn't me. Oh, God, why did I ever want to join an SG unit? Sam pressed her back against the concrete wall of the corridor, her gun against her shoulder, panting as she waited for the guard to walk by. Her face was bright with sweat, her hair sticking to her forehead. She needed to catch her breath. She had been letting herself get lazy since she worked behind a desk all day. Now it was starting to catch up with her.
Janet Fraiser stepped boldly into the cross corridor, turned toward the approaching guard, and said, "Oh. Hi, there. I got a little bit turned around. Could you help me?"
Sam rolled her eyes. It was Janet's idea that Hathor was turning all the men into horny teenagers, and they hadn't seen any evidence to the contrary. The thought of a quick lay seemed to make all the guards willing to make idiotic mistakes. At the moment, Janet had discarded her jacket and wore only the green fatigue pants, the legs tucked into the boots, and a brown T-shirt. As the guard approached, Janet rolled her shoulders back, pressing her breasts against the tight cotton of her shirt, and cocked her hips to one side.
Sam couldn't help but admire the captain's body. Curves in all the right places, and what curves they were. No wonder the men on the base were leaving their posts for a chance to be with her. Given the right circumstances, Sam wouldn't have minded...
The guard walked past her, and Sam dropped into a crouch. She thrust her leg out and swept it across the floor, tripping the guard. He flung himself forward, and Janet moved out of the way to let him fall. He hit the ground hard, bouncing on the concrete, and all the women winced at the sight. "Ouch," Janet said. She hooked her hands under the man's shoulders and started dragging him toward an empty room.
Sam stepped out of the way and happened to notice how the back of Janet's uniform trousers folded at the back, rising into a peak. She also noticed how the material hugged the curve of Janet's ass. Why have I never noticed what a nice ass she has? Sam shook her head at the unwelcome thought and looked to make sure they were alone in the hallway.
Janet came out of the room and exhaled sharply. Sam looked at her and saw Janet's arm muscles. Janet usually wore a jacket on base, which meant her biceps were covered. Now, exposed by the short T-shirt sleeves, Sam was surprised to see the doctor was... Sam forced herself to look away and pushed thoughts of Janet's physique from her mind. "We're all clear."
"Good," Janet said. "I can only put up the damsel act for so long." She brushed by Sam on her way down the hall. Sam closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and followed Janet around the corner.
Who would have thought that, on a base where a Goa'uld was taking over, that the Goa'uld would be the least of Sam's problems?
"Too bad she blew up the sarcophagus," Janet said, holding her bloody arm. "We could use one of those in the infirmary right about now."
"Get yourselves down there right away," O'Neill said. "Captain Carter and I will take care of the Goa'uld."
"Uh," Sam said. "I-I'm a scientist. Janet or, or Teal'c..."
"Are injured," O'Neill finished. "Daniel's been compromised. Right now, SG-1 consists of me. And I'm deputizing you."
Sam looked at Janet, who gave her a reassuring nod. "We'll be fine. Go."
Sam exhaled, looked at the gun and decided she had done all right so far. She shook her head and turned to O'Neill. "Lead the way, sir." When she reached the door, she turned and caught Janet's attention. She mouthed, "Thank you," and then followed O'Neill out into the corridor.
"Do you require assistance, Captain Fraiser?" Teal'c asked.
"No," she said, and then winced. She said, "But, you know, if you needed me to lean against you to prop you up, just say the word."
He put his arm around her shoulders and guided her out of the room. Janet put a hand on Teal'c's stomach for balance and had to resist the urge to pull her hand away. Oh, this is a nice and tight body. So what if he's a guy? I've been with guys. It would certainly take the edge off. Maybe if I just slid my hand down a little...
"I think I'm fine," Janet said quickly, pushing away from Teal'c to stand on her own.
"Are you certain, Captain Fraiser? I could carry you."
Oh, yeah, stud. Lift me up in those arms, carry me into your quarters and just push my pants down. Maybe bend me over the bed and-- Janet grunted, breaking her train of thought. How bad is it that I'm fantasizing about a man? I'm definitely in bad shape.
Since Hathor first started swaying the men with her flashy purple smoke, Janet had felt a tug. An urge. Her first thought upon seeing the Goa'uld was to hit her knees and... well, not technically worship, but there was a bit of that in what she wanted to do. Throughout the women's attempt to retake the base, Janet found herself constantly distracted by Sam Carter and the other women on their thrown-together team.
The cell they were kept in was hell on Earth for Janet. Every fantasy realized; locked into a room with six other women, the air thick with arousal. It had taken every fiber of her being to not suggest they make the best of their incarceration. As it was, she and Lieutenant Finney had groped one another a bit to entice the guard into coming inside. But one secret of being gay in the military was learning how to push past those urges and wait until an appropriate time and place to let loose.
The infirmary was abandoned, with everyone either hunting Hathor or serving her. The lights were dim and Janet felt like it was the middle of the night. She distanced herself from Teal'c and pointed at the opposite end of the infirmary. "Check over there for supplies. We're going to need them before this mess is through. I'll meet back with you here in five minutes." He accepted his mission with a slight dip of his chin and they separated.
Janet went into the office and checked the temporary tourniquet on her arm. So far, so good, but she needed a sling. She went around the desk, bemoaning the stack of reports and memos awaiting her attention. The sad truth was, she had hardly any time for sitting around doing paperwork. She pushed her chair out of the way and leaned across the desk to grab a box of...
The chair pressed against the front of her trousers in a surprising, pleasing way. She withdrew her arm, but kept her hips forward and tight against the back of the chair. She braced herself against the desk with one hand, holding the chair in place with the other. She bit her lip, sucked in a breath, and rocked her hips forward. Oooh, yeah. She closed her eyes and thrust against the chair, the rough texture of the chair's material, pushing her coarse trousers against her mound... It was like scratching at poison ivy. Once she started, she couldn't stop until satisfied. She grunted quietly, standing on her toes to hit just the right position. She thought about her last lover, a brunette with startling blue eyes, and she sighed. She spread her legs further apart and her mind betrayed her, sending an image of Sam Carter, clad in dark fatigues, standing in a hallway.
"Uh, God," Janet sighed, keeping her voice low so Teal'c wouldn't hear.
Sam Carter, sweaty, following Janet's lead. Running into a lion's den to give Janet back-up. If we'd had our orgy in the prison cell, Janet thought, I would have grabbed her. You know she wouldn't grab anyone for herself. She's so shy. But I could change that. Oh, yes, I could really bring her out of her shell...
Janet sucked in a sharp breath, almost a squeak, and turned toward the door. Still closed. Teal'c was deeper in the infirmary. She tried to keep her voice steady. "I'm... coming," she said. She clenched her teeth, thrust herself hard against the chair, and shuddered. She pursed her lips, exhaled, and retreated from the chair. She looked at her wound, grabbed the box of gauze she had originally been reaching for, and steadied herself before she left the office.
Yeah. That would definitely get her through the rest of the mission.
Sam didn't see much of Janet following the Hathor incident. Honestly, she did whatever she could to avoid her. She still felt an underlying resentment toward Fraiser, although it was admittedly getting easier to ignore. She wondered if she had simply accepted her lot in life, or if she was truly starting to like Janet. The SGC was a boy's club, and she could definitely use a friend sometimes. Just someone to have a drink with or to talk to.
But there was also the fear of getting too close. Sam hadn't been with a woman since she joined the military, and there was only one before that. It was easier to go to bed with men and let people assume whatever they wanted. It was easier, it seemed, to be a heterosexual slut than part of a homosexual couple.
Still. Janet in that T-shirt during the Hathor incident... She shuddered.
Colonel O'Neill asked for her assistance when the team returned from PX8-987. He didn't offer any details, just that there was some sort of outbreak and the science team sent to observe the black hole had all died. Janet cleared SG-1 to return through the Gate, so Sam wondered what they could possibly need her help with. Janet was the exotic disease expert. Suddenly it dawned on her that she didn't know the extent of the disease. What if she had to identify members of the team she had sent to their death?
She found Daniel at the door of the lab and put on her game face. She cleared her throat and he turned to face her. "Reporting as requested. What do you need my help with?"
Before Daniel could answer, the doors slid open. Janet exited, looking harried and, to be frank, pissed off. She looked at Daniel, then shifted her gaze to Sam. Her shoulders sagged and she said, "Oh, thank God. Dr. Carter, I need your help with this."
Sam and Daniel followed Janet back into the room. Sam was looking for technology, a body bag, something that would require the head of the science department. She nearly kicked herself when she realized she had overlooked the little girl sitting on the diagnostic bed. "Oh. Um. I'm... not terribly good with kids."
"We didn't call you here to baby-sit," Janet said. Sam looked at Janet again. Up close, Sam could see the fatigue in her eyes. Along with something else that was harder to identify. Janet nodded her chin at the girl, who was playing some sort of card game with O'Neill. She lowered her voice so only Sam could hear. "The Goa'uld killed everyone on her planet and left her alive for us to find. They put a bomb in her chest. If she goes anywhere near the Stargate, it will explode."
The force of Janet's words hit Sam hard, and she realized what the look in Janet's eyes was: fury.
"I have to tell her. But I can't. I cannot tell that little girl..." She pressed her lips together and shook her head sharply. "She won't talk to me. I think she's scared of me. She needs a friendly face." She looked at Sam hopefully.
"I'll see what I can do," Sam promised.
Janet got her thumbnail under the edge of the label and slowly peeled it down, exposing the brown glass skin of the bottle. The paper tore and she muttered under her breath. She pressed the label back into place with the pad of her thumb, but the glue didn't hold it very long. She didn't care. She brought the bottle to her lips and took a swallow. It was her third beer of the night and, no matter how bad she felt, she was going to call it quits after this one. The thought of her bed made her feel warm and cozy, and she couldn't wait to retire to it.
"Hey," someone said from behind her. "This stool taken?"
Janet turned and saw Sam Carter standing behind her. She straightened and said, "No. Please, have a seat."
Sam slid onto the stool and motioned for the bartender. She pointed at Janet's bottle, held up two fingers, and the bartender nodded. Sam rested her elbows on the edge of the bar and looked at their reflections in the mirror above the bar. "Long week."
Janet nodded slowly. "Yeah."
Sam pushed a hand through her hair and ended up with her hand cupping the back of her neck. "General Hammond spoke to his daughter. She and her husband are willing to take Cassandra, at least on a trial basis. It'll be good. She'll have two sisters to grow up with, show her the ropes."
"It's probably for the best," Janet said. "Girls need sisters."
"Did you have any?"
Janet shook her head. "Two little brothers."
"That explains why you do so well keeping Colonel O'Neill in line."
Janet laughed. "Yeah, probably." The bartender brought two bottles of beer and placed one in front of Janet. "No, thank you. I've reached my limit."
"Are you sure?" Sam said.
"Yeah. But I'll sit with you, if you want."
Sam hesitated and then said, "I was just grabbing a quick beer on the way home. I won't keep you long."
Janet nodded and looked at Sam's reflection. She was dressed in civilian clothes, a white V-neck shirt and a suede jacket. And a quick glance down, ostensibly to check her watch, revealed blue jeans. Janet stifled a sigh. Save me from hot blondes in tight blue jeans. She took a sip of her beer and said, "You really saved that little girl, Sam. You put her at ease, you kept her mind off all the horrific stuff that was happening to her. And the bomb shelter..."
"Let's not think about that, okay?" Sam said.
"You saved her," Janet said. "Going back down took guts. Guts I don't think I have."
Sam accepted the compliment graciously, silently, and focused on her beer.
Janet looked at the level of beer left in her bottle and determined she wasn't sufficiently blotto to question her decisions. She licked her lips, rounded her shoulders and lowered her voice. "Would... w-would you like to come home with me tonight?"
Sam's beer bottle stopped on the way to her mouth, her eyes widening slightly. She returned the bottle to the bar and stared at it, wide-eyed and unblinking. She finally swallowed, ran her thumb over the curved glass. "No."
Janet winced slightly at the rejection, but she was a big girl. "Okay."
Janet held up a hand. "You don't have to explain. I just thought I would put it out there."
"Don't be," Janet chuckled.
Sam brought the bottle up again, but aborted the drink before it touched her lips. "I should probably go ahead and leave..."
Janet reached out and touched Sam's arm. "Hey. Forget about what I said. I was just going out on a limb. Don't let this ruin what we've managed to put together. I would rather have you as a friend than as nothing."
Sam eased back down onto the stool.
"I mean. We're not exactly friends now, I guess. But I would like to be."
"I would, too."
"We can blame it on the beer." She held up her bottle and, after a moment, Sam tapped her bottle against the side.
They each took another drink, staring at each other in the mirror behind the bar.
"Your service will take you to places you never dreamed possible." The words of her father echoed in Sam's head as she raced from the helicopter into the heated shack that made up McMurdo Station. She pushed the hood back and stared wide-eyed at the seemingly-ordinary building. She was at the very bottom of the world, snow from Antarctica melting in her eyelashes. Amazing.
She jumped at the chance to be part of the team to secure the second Stargate site, amazed at the fortune to have two Gates on one planet. But she knew that it was less than thrilling for Colonel O'Neill and Captain Fraiser. On her way to the initial briefing, she made a pit stop in the infirmary. O'Neill was out cold, healing from some serious injuries, but Janet was awake. She had one hand on her forehead, breathing deeply with her eyes closed.
"Hey. Should I come back?"
Janet opened her eyes. "Sam. Hey. It's just a headache. Come in."
"Do you need a doctor?"
"No," Janet said. "What are you doing here?"
"They wanted a science team to view the second Gate in situ. I'm head of the science department, so I get to assign myself to the really cool missions."
Janet smiled. "I'm glad you're here."
Sam hesitantly took Janet's hand, squeezed, and said, "I just wanted to make sure you were all right."
Janet returned the squeeze and nodded slowly, taking care because of her headache.
Across the room, a very weakened O'Neill said, "Forget it, Carter."
Sam quickly pulled her hand away from Janet's. "Uh. Sir?"
"If you think we're donating our bodies to science, you'll just have to wait."
Sam smiled. "Understood, sir." She looked at Janet and said, "I'll, uh. I'll c-come and see you again before they send you back to the SGC."
"Okay," Janet said.
Sam backed away from Janet's bedside and left the infirmary.
Janet's eyes were closed. Her hands were wrapped around a gun, her breath coming in quick, harsh gasps. She wore a black uniform, a knit cap pulled low over her forehead. She leaned back, and held out her right hand. She was trembling. She exhaled, shook her head and gripped the gun again, tighter. Sweat was clammy under her uniform. They were on a Goa'uld ship, against orders, no back-up. For all she knew, they were being written off as dead and the Stargate was being packed up. The SGC was effectively closed, and she was on an alien ship with her team.
She was dangerously close to losing composure.
O'Neill hurried past her position and bent down to tap her shoulder. Janet pushed herself up and fell into step behind him. She was a soldier, he was her CO, and this was her mission. Janet followed O'Neill as he retrieved Teal'c and Daniel for the next step of their hijacking attempt. They waited at a crossroad and Janet looked at her hand again. It wasn't shaking anymore.
Sam's lab was all packed. She couldn't believe the ride was already ending. She had just gotten used to being in charge of the most important science department on Earth. She finally accepted that she wasn't going to be a member of an SG unit, she came to terms with everything she had been handed. And now the rug was being swept out from underneath her. It wasn't fair. Hell, she had even gotten used to wearing a lab jacket over her dress blues.
She picked up a photograph of her science team taken on what Chloe called an "impromptu outdoor team-building meal," and everyone else called an office picnic.
Sam smiled at her uncomfortable expression in the shot. She may have been a genius, one of the most gifted scientists in the world, but she was utterly uncomfortable around others like her. She slipped the picture into a box and sighed, looking for the next thing to pack away. She had no idea where she was going, what she was going to do. After the SGC, any other assignment would pale in comparison.
She was saved from monotony by the overhead intercom calling all department heads to the briefing room. Sam abandoned her lab, grateful for being able to put off her departure by at least a little bit. Her relief was short-lived, killed by General Hammond's grave report. Daniel was right. The Goa'uld were on their way, and two large ships had just passed Jupiter.
"The President is mobilizing every branch, including the Guard and the Reserve. The Air Force efforts will be coordinated through this facility. I need this room converted to a control and command center ASAP. Make sure we have a link to AF SATCOM for encrypted communications to all Air Force bases and to NASA." Hammond turned to a technician. "Any more details on what we're facing?"
"Not yet, sir."
Hammond nodded and said, "Get to work, people. We're running out of time."
Sam went off to gather her team once more, amazed that it seemed like the SGC might not be shut down after all. How could they possibly close the doors knowing what was at risk? As she waited for the elevator, she found an unusual, stray thought running through her head. Please let Janet be okay. Please let her be all right.
Janet leaned back in the death glider seat. She had a headache, and she was utterly, fantastically drained. She lifted her eyes and watched the Earth drift past her window. She couldn't put together a coherent thought, so she just watched it spin. The world was amazing. Beautiful. It was lit as if from within, some magical globe out here in the vastness of space. She smiled and thought of a song she heard once. She quietly sang, "Though I'd like to look down at the Earth from above, I would miss all the places and people I love."
"So although I might like it for one afternoon," a voice said in her ear, and Janet was shocked to realize it was Colonel O'Neill, "I don't want to live on the moon." He was quiet for a moment and then said, "I used to sing it to Charlie."
Janet smiled and lifted her gaze again. "I'd like to travel under the sea..."
Together, she and O'Neill sang. When they finished, the silence in the two gliders was overwhelming. Finally, O'Neill said, "You know, Captain. This wasn't such a bad day after all."
Janet smiled. Daniel might be gone, they might all die in the cold darkness of space, but Earth would survive. Six billion people, give or take, would continue living their lives in peace. Because of her and her team. She helped make that possible. She nodded and agreed with O'Neill. "Not bad at all, sir."
At the back of her mind, Janet thought, Sam would love to be here. To see this. She sighed and closed her eyes. It was only a matter of time before they ran out of air. She heard Teal'c and Bra'tac talking, but she didn't pay attention to the words until O'Neill said something with enough optimism to make her sit up and look around.
She saw the space shuttle approaching them. It was moving slowly, laboriously, but it was coming for them. They were going to go home. Janet laughed and tears rolled down her cheeks. They were going to go home.
The SGC would survive. Sam unpacked her office in a fraction of the time it took her to pack it up, eagerly returning pictures to shelves where they belonged. She prayed that the situation had proven to the higher-ups how valuable the program was, how cataclysmic it would be if the planet was left defenseless in the face of the Goa'uld threat. If SG-1 hadn't broken the rules and gone through the Gate, Earth would have been devastated.
There was a knock on the door and Sam turned to see Janet sticking her head in. "Hey. Got a minute?"
"For the person who helped save the world? Sure." She smiled and said, "What can I do for you?"
Janet closed the door behind her and stepped into the office. "I haven't been down here before. I've only seen you in your lab."
"That's usually where I am. Why come down here when all the toys are there?"
Janet smiled. She looked down at the floor and stuck her hands into the pockets of her trousers. "Sam... yesterday, I went through the Stargate against orders. I did so knowing I would either die, or come home to a court-martial. I found myself on an alien ship and I was fully prepared to blow it up at the cost of my own life to save this planet. I evacuated the ship knowing our chances of rescue were slim to none. I threw it all away, Sam. I was ready for the end. And..." She held her arms out to indicate she was unharmed. "I'm a little sore, but I'm none the worse for wear. I'm still a Captain in the Air Force. SG-1 is in a bit of trouble, but considering we saved the world...
"So, I'm going to throw caution to the wind one more time. I would like to have dinner with you some night. I would prefer it to be a romantic dinner," she let this suggestion sit for a moment before she continued, "but I would be happy if it was just a... getting to know you meal. Whichever you prefer, I'm fine with. But I really would like a chance to be friends with you, Sam. We've made it a long way already, you know. From you telling me off in the infirmary to being on a first-name basis. I think we could become really close."
Sam listened to the speech in silence and finally lifted her eyebrows. "Did you practice that?"
Janet shrugged. "I spent a lot of time drifting in outer space recently."
Sam smiled. She sat down and said, "I was thinking about sandcastles."
Janet blinked and said, "Uh. Okay."
"Bear with me. You can spend all day building this big, beautiful sandcastle. And you love it. All your hard work and all your dedication has amounted to this magnificent thing. And then the tide comes in, and your precious castle gets destroyed. Maybe a little at a time, maybe one big wave wipes it out. And you're inconsolable, everything is ruined. Your beautiful castle has been destroyed. But then you look up, and you see the sun is starting to set. And the water seems to erupt as the sun touches it, like it's on fire. And if you'd still been looking at your sandcastle, you would have missed this beautiful thing."
Janet was smiling by the time Sam finished speaking. "Am I the wave?"
"No," Sam said. She looked down at her hands, one hand fiddling with the fingernails of the other. "I think you're the sunset."
Janet blushed and ducked her chin. "So... dinner?"
"Yeah," Sam said. "Dinner."
Janet leaned back in her chair and smiled at Sam across the desk.
All the castles I had built
Out of fine and precious sand
Til you came in like the tide
Now I don't care that they are gone."
-- Josh Ritter, Potter's Wheel