Summary: Cassie's time in London draws to a close
"This has got to be better than emailing, hasn't it sweetie," Janet grinned as she snuggled into her lover. This was their first night together in Sam's quarters in Atlantis. "I can't believe I'm here, and that you're here in this bed with me, that this is real."
Sam smiled lazily, and stroked Janet's cheek. "Oh it's real alright, Jan," she said, "and thank God for that. I think I would have exploded if I'd had to wait any longer." She reached over and kissed Janet thoroughly. "Want me to remind you once again just how real this is?" Sam asked Janet, with a wicked glint in her eye.
"Well, my powers of recall can be a little hazy sometimes," Janet tried not to laugh. "I think perhaps you'd better just jog my memory...."
So Sam did.
= = =
All too soon, Tuesday arrived, and Janet had to head back to Earth. She had loved every second she had spent with Sam. She was also relieved that, while Sam clearly missed her as much as she missed Sam, she was not pining. She was lonely a lot of the time, but Janet could see that she was coping, and coping well. Sam had established herself, in a very short time, as an efficient and respected leader of Atlantis. Janet saw for herself that her lover had already made the best of impressions on her team, and was held in high esteem, as well as affection.
So while Janet hated leaving Sam behind, almost as much as Sam hated the idea of Janet stepping through the wormhole, away from her, both women knew that it would all work out.
They had agreed, even before Janet arrived, that she would leave early on the Tuesday morning. "I don't think I could bear not being able to say goodbye to your properly," Sam had told her in one email, "and if you leave in the afternoon, I'll have to be formal with you as you leave the infirmary. But if you leave in the morning, we can say goodbye properly in my quarters."
Janet knew exactly what Sam was getting at, and when Sam nudged her awake gently at 0500hrs on the Tuesday, she understood the reason.
"Hey," she smiled sleepily at Sam. "You look beautiful."
And she was right; Sam looked adorably sleepy, her hair still mussed, and she didn't have on a scrap of make-up. But she was stunning; her clear skin, perfect teeth and cascading golden hair all combined to make her the most beautiful thing Janet had ever seen.
"I'm sorry to wake you, baby," Sam's voice was gentle and loving. "I just wanted to make the most of our last couple of hours."
"I'm so glad you did, hon," Janet told her, pushing herself up on her elbow. "I want to be with you, Sam, on our last morning. In every way. You know, sometimes I can't believe we've been together for so long. You make me just as hot as you did on that first night together. Do you remember that night, Sam, at the lake?"
"I'll remember every second of that night for as long as I live," Sam whispered, "that night was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. Without exception."
Sam reached out and started to unbutton Janet's pajama top. Technically, the top belonged to Sam, but Janet had taken to wearing the oversized garment at night. It was far too big for her, but Janet enjoyed the feeling of wearing Sam's clothes, even if she had to roll up the sleeves some. And it had the added bonus of being so long on her that it almost reached her knees, so there was no need for pajama pants.
Getting impatient, Janet helped in the unbuttoning, and shrugged off the top. Sam breathed sharply at the sight of her. "I don't know how you do it, baby," she said, her voice cracking with emotion, "but you look more perfect every time I see you."
"Back at you, Sam," Janet replied, gently, "right back at you."
= = =
As Janet stood in front of the wormhole at 0730hrs, wearing her dress blues, she saw Sam standing tall and proud, and her heart went out to her. She knew that, as soon as she reached Midway, she would likely burst into floods of tears. But she knew Sam couldn't allow herself that luxury, so she tried to stay strong for her.
At least they had already arranged that Sam would be visiting Earth only two short weeks from then. General Hammond was going to be honored for his work at the SGC over the years, and he had personally requested that Sam be present at the ceremony. "It wouldn't be the same without Colonel Carter there," he had told Landry. "She's a shining example of the work that we've done at the SGC. She started out here as a young captain, and now she's leading what is probably this world's most important, and exciting, mission." Landry couldn't disagree.
= = =
Cassie was amazed by how quickly she felt at home in Anna's apartment. The two girls spent nearly all their time together, but incredibly didn't seem to get on each others nerves at all. After a day in the bookstore, Anna would usually suggest some sort of evening entertainment -- from the occasional free concert in one of London's squares, to a night at the theater or even, on one thrilling occasion, the opera (Anna knew somebody who knew somebody, so she managed to acquire free tickets).
Some evenings, they just walked through the city, taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells. Sometimes the rain drove them back into the apartment, where they would play cards, or just talk.
Cassie learned that Anna was 27 years old and a qualified teacher. After teaching for a year, she had gone back to college to do a masters degree in art and literature "just because it's so fascinating," Anna told Cassie. "And I thought, why not? I'll be a better teacher if I'm happy with what I've learned myself."
Anna also told Cassie how she had been born and raised in Oxford, about an hour and a half away from London by train. Her father lectured at one of the many colleges, and her mother had only recently gone back to work as a receptionist at the local doctor's. "She's a trained nurse," Anna explained, "but after Izzie was born she had to stay at home."
"Izzie?" asked Cassie.
"She's my sister," Anna said, a smile coming over her face. "She's 23 now. She's got Down's Syndrome," she said, with no hint of embarrassment, "she's great."
Cassie didn't know what to say.
"Don't feel awkward," Anna said gently. "She's wonderful, we all love her so much. She's very happy, she's got a beautiful spirit. And she's achieved a lot. She's even got a job, she works four days a week in the old people's home. But Mum wanted to stay at home with her until she was ready to become a little more independent."
Cassie smiled. "Must have been hard for you to leave a family like that," she said.
"I haven't left them, not really," Anna said. "I may be living somewhere else, but I'll always be part of them, just as they'll always be part of me. Distance doesn't really matter, you know?"
Cassie was moved by the wistful tone in Anna's voice. She felt similarly about her own family. "I know what you mean," she said, "I feel the same about Mom and Sam. They're apart for the moment too, for the next 18 months probably. I know Mom's finding it hard, and I'm sure Sam is too. But their relationship's still just as strong."
"How come?" Anna asked.
Cassie laughed. "It's all Air Force stuff," she wished she could explain fully. "Some of it's classified, so I can't give you all the details. Sam's been posted and Mom's staying behind. But it's not for ever."
"Classified, like your adoption?" Anna asked. Cassie had given her some sketchy details of how Sam had found her on a 'mission', and told her that she couldn't give her much information about her early life pre-adoption.
"Yeah," Cassie agreed. "I'm so sorry, Annie," she told her friend. "I wish I could tell you everything, but I'm not allowed to. You'd probably find it really weird anyway. But I haven't told you any lies, what I have said is all true. Maybe one day, if we still know each other, I'll be allowed to tell you."
"It's okay, Cass," Anna laughed. "I rather like the fact that I'm sharing with a 'woman of mystery'!"
= = =
"So this is Sam," Cassie told Anna, showing her the handful of pictures she carried with her, "next to her favorite motorbike." The picture showed a grinning Sam leaning up against the 1940s Indian that she was so proud of. "And this is Mom," Janet was sitting in the garden on a bright summer day, relaxing in the sunshine, a wide smile on her face. "And these," Cassie laughed, "these are 'the guys'. They're part of the family, they're like my three crazy uncles." She showed Anna the photograph of O'Neill, Daniel and Teal'c, all sitting on the dock by Jack's cabin. Teal'c was wearing one of his large collection of hats; uncharacteristically for him, he was smiling broadly.
"They all look great," Anna said. "I hope to meet them one day."
"Well if you're ever near Colorado Springs, you must come visit," Cassie wished fervently that this would, one day, come to pass.
"I think I'd like that," Anna was suddenly shy. "So you want to see my family?"
Cassie nodded enthusiastically. Anna went to fetch the album that she kept in her room.
"My fabulous parents!" she announced, as she turned the first page. Cassie was confused; she looked from Anna, to the picture, and back to Anna again.
"So are you adopted too?" she asked her.
Anna laughed. "No," she told her. "Well, yes and no."
The picture showed two extremely blonde, almost Scandinavian-looking, people, contrasting sharply with Anna's coffee colored skin and dark hair.
"It's like this," she explained. "My Dad met Mum when she was two months' pregnant, they fell madly in love, got married, and lived happily ever after! Dad knew Mum was pregnant right from the start, but she'd already split with my biological father, and Dad wanted to bring me up as his own."
"Was it weird, knowing your real father was out there somewhere?" Cassie asked.
"Dad *is* my 'real' father," Anna said with feeling. "He may not be the sperm donor, but he's been an amazing Dad, and I love him to pieces. They've never hidden anything from me, I knew from early on what the situation was. The mixed-race thing can get a bit confusing sometimes, explaining to people. But that's a small price to pay for such a great family life. And this," her voice swelled with pride, "is Izzie. Isabella." She showed Cassie a picture of a smiling blonde girl in her early 20s. The Down's features were evident, but the girl was beautiful. She also looked very much like Anna, despite the difference in skin tone and hair; it was immediately obvious that the two were sisters. "I love her so much," Anna told her, "she's had to overcome so much, but she's always smiling, always happy. It was a shock to my parents to start with, I think that sort of thing always is, but very soon it became obvious how much she could do, instead of how much she couldn't do. And she's so loving. She's funny, too, she's got a good sense of humor."
"That's great," Cassie said. "I bet you're real proud of her."
"I am," Anna said. "I really am."
= = =
All too soon, they were in the sixth week of Cassie's six-week stay. She had long ago admitted to herself that she had fallen in love with Anna, but she had said nothing to her. It was crazy, she reasoned. She was only staying a few weeks, and then she was off on the rest of her round-the-world trip. Anna was leaving two weeks after she was, for a four-month post teaching in Japan. And Cassie had no reason at all to believe that Anna might be gay. True, she hadn't talked about any boyfriends, but neither had she mentioned girlfriends. Cassie had, many times, nearly told Anna about how she felt, but she decided she just couldn't risk ruining the beautiful friendship that had developed. So she kept quiet, and felt an increasing sense of desperation as her time in London drew to a close.
= = =
"Sam, sweetheart," Janet wrote in her email. "You'll be here in just over a day. If I've got my times right, you're just about to leave for Midway. You'll be in my arms in just over 24 hours, where you belong. I know you can only stay 48 hours, but we'll make the most of every minute. And it'll be great to have you home with me. It was wonderful, being with you at Atlantis, but it'll be even better when you're home, with me, in our bed. Anyway, Toby's missing you something awful, he'll be very excited to see you." It was true, Toby the dog had always enjoyed his long walks with Sam; she would often take him out on the weekends, while Janet went to the market, or drove Cassie someplace. "I'm having to take him on lots of walks to make up for you being away," Janet continued, "but I'm only a poor substitute for his real love! Be safe, baby, catch up on some sleep at Midway, and I'll see you sooner than you know it. My love always, Sam, J. xx"
Sam was leaving in just under an hour, so she checked her private email one final time. The message from Janet filled her with joy, and with longing. It wouldn't be long.
= = =
The ceremony for General Hammond was short, but moving. After it had concluded, O'Neill insisted on taking all of the former SG-1 and Janet out to lunch with Hammond at a local restaurant. The lunch was a great success, though Janet was worried about Hammond's appearance. "You look tired, Sir," she told him, "is everything okay?"
"I'm fine, Dr Fraiser," he replied, warmly. "I've had a few problems, but I'm seeing a specialist, and he says I'll be back up to full strength in no time at all."
"Who's the specialist Sir?" Janet asked.
Hammond named the man in question, and Janet's heart sank. He was a pre-eminent heart surgeon, so she suspected Hammond was playing down his problems. But she knew that he was clearly getting the best care, so she planted a bright smile on her face. "You get well soon, Sir," she said, "and come see us again when you're all better, won't you? We miss you here Sir, it's not the same without you."
Hammond smiled, "the SGC, and all of you, are very dear to me Janet," his emotions threatening to spill over as he used her first name, "I've had a wonderful career, but working at the mountain was the best time for me."
Janet's eyes filled with tears. "For us too, Sir," she said, in a halting voice.
= = =
"I'm worried about General Hammond," she told Sam in bed later that night. "I think he has heart problems."
"He did look drawn," Sam agreed, "is there anything we can do?"
"No," Janet said sadly, "he's already under the best guy in the business. We just have to hope that he can be treated."
Sam looked somber. "God I hope so," she said, "he's a wonderful man. Don't get me wrong, I like Landry, but things were never the same after General Hammond left, even with General O'Neill. He's a good man, and there aren't too many of those around." She turned and gathered Janet in her arms.
= = =
Before she knew what had happened, it was Cassie's last day in London. She was leaving that night, at 2200hrs, to catch the train to the south coast. She had booked herself into a hostel for the night, as she was catching the ferry very early to head to France. The rain was hammering down hard, adding to Cassie's misery. She wished with all her heart that she had not booked the ferry, that she had not told Anna she was only staying six weeks in London. She wanted, above all else, to spend the next two weeks at Anna's side before she left for Japan.
But she couldn't tell Anna any of this. They were just friends, after all, not partners. So it would have been too weird. So they took each other's home addresses, and cellphone numbers, and email addresses, and swore to keep in contact.
As Anna turned to say goodbye to Cassie, Cassie thought her heart would break. Anna seized her in a fierce hug. "You stay in contact, you hear?" she told Cassie, and Cassie was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "And be safe, promise me you'll be careful? Paris is a dangerous city."
"I swear," Cassie's voice cracked. "You too. And I'll see you in Japan on my travels, I promise."
"You'd damned well better," Anna replied. And she reached up impulsively and kissed Cassie on the cheek. "Here," she said, handing her a package, "don't open it until you get to Portsmouth." She squeezed her hand, and watched her walk through the barrier.
= = =
When Anna got back to the apartment, it looked so big and empty without Cassie and all her stuff. She was furious with herself. She had fallen in love with the quirky American the first time she set eyes on her. But she had held back, scared of what would happen if she declared herself. She knew Cassie was fine with the gay thing -- her two mothers were evidence of that -- but she couldn't tell if Cassie was gay herself. And, like Cassie, she didn't want to risk the friendship. Also like Cassie, she could see that the logistics of a relationship between them would be complicated, to say the least.
But as she looked round the apartment, her eyes filled with tears and she started to sob.
= = =
Cassie reached Portsmouth in just under two hours, and took a cab to the hostel. Her emotions were overwhelming, and she couldn't wait to be alone with her thoughts. She got to her private room, and collapsed on the bed in tears. After a full half hour of misery, she suddenly remembered the package Anna had handed to her, so she sat up and felt in the pocket of her backpack where she had put it.
She opened the package, and was touched to see seven pairs of the most vulgar stripy socks fall out. A note in Anna's handwriting said "one for every day of the week! Be happy, Cass, much love, Anna".
Cassie came to a sudden decision. Life really was too short. She looked at her watch; it was past midnight, and the trains were no longer running. She didn't care. She would thumb a ride, people were going to London all the time. She didn't care how long it took.
= = =
It was 0345hrs by the time a wet and exhausted Cassie reached the apartment in Covent Garden. She had managed to thumb a ride most of the way, but once she got to London she had had to walk the last three miles, in the cold and wet. But she didn't care, she was elated at the thought of seeing Anna again.
As she approached the apartment, though, she began to worry. But she had come this far, and she was damned well going to declare herself if it was the last thing she did.
Cassie pounded hard on the door, knowing that it was sometimes hard to hear the knocking from above. She was surprised when, in seconds, Anna appeared at the door.
"I'm sorry to wake you," Cassie's words came out in a rush.
"You didn't wake me," Anna replied, and for the first time Cassie saw her red-rimmed, sleepless eyes. "I couldn't sleep. I missed you," she said, her voice thick. "And now you've come back to me."
"I had to," Cassie told her. "I had to tell you. I'm in love with you Annie. I have been since the first moment I saw you.
"Oh Cass," Anna began to weep openly. "I feel the same way. I love you so much," and she flung herself into Cassandra's arms. Cassie rocked her gently, clinging tight to her.
"You're all wet," Anna said, when she pulled back a long time later, "let's get you warm and dry."
Cassie nodded, and in a trance allowed Anna to lead her upstairs.
"You need a shower," Anna told her, when she realized Cassie was shivering. She went and got a clean towel, and pushed Cassie gently toward the bathroom.
"Come with me?" Cassie asked, in a small, scared voice.
Anna looked her straight in the eye. "There's nothing I'd like more," she whispered, and followed her into the bathroom.
Hours later, as they lay in a heap on the pull-out bed together, Anna turned to Cassie. "There's one problem we have to overcome," she said, with a smile in her voice.
"Just one?" Cassie's tone was equally lighthearted. "Apart from the different continents thing?"
"Yep," Anna agreed. "Apart from that. One of us," she giggled, "one of us is going to *have* to learn how to cook!"
Cassie laughed. She leaned up on her elbow, and looked down at Anna. "I'll do anything," she said in a serious voice, "anything I need to, just so long as we can be together. Even when we're apart."
"We've got two weeks now," Anna reminded her. "Let's make the most of it." And she pulled Cassie into a deep kiss.