Summary: The past catches up with Sam and Janet as a familiar face makes her presence known.
Info: As usual, Janet didn't die, Sam's in charge of SG-1, O'Neill's running the SGC...
Sam sat cradling baby Beatrice in her arms. She had never realized it was possible to be this happy. If she'd been asked two years ago about her life, she would have thought she was as happy as it was possible to be. She was with the woman she loved, and delighted in her shared parentage of Cassie. And she loved her job. Okay, there was the ever-present threat that the planet (hell, even the galaxy) would be taken out by some evil-doer or other, but that aside, she had thought she had a pretty perfect life. A bit more time with Janet would have made it even better, but they got to work in the same place (when they were on the same planet, that is), so saw more of each other than most couples. All told, she reckoned was happier than any person deserved to be.
The only time she was really unhappy was when Janet was unhappy. So their efforts to have a child were really mostly for Janet's benefit. Yes, Sam had often thought how wonderful it would be if they could somehow have a baby -- especially if it were like Janet, she couldn't think of anything better than a miniature version of Janet to hold, to nurture, to love -- but it was not with the all-consuming passion that Janet had wanted a baby. And then they were marooned on that planet for months, so that didn't help.
Sam was also reluctant to increase the size of the family while Earth was still at serious risk from the Ori, knowing that she could be summoned offworld at a moment's notice, potentially leaving Janet as a single parent. But they talked about all the risks, and decided to go ahead. As Janet had argued, there was never an ideal time, and with both of them in their late 30s, time was running out. So they had gingerly approached Daniel, as they both believed he would be a wonderful father (and they wanted someone who would be a real father to their child, and be involved in all aspects of its life).
But life is sometimes harsh, and after the heartbreak of Janet's ectopic pregnancy and likely infertility, Sam tried to steel herself, and Janet, to their family remaining just the three of them (well, four, if you counted Einstein, the 'dog' who had accompanied them back from the planet). But Janet wasn't having any of it, and persuaded Sam to use the healing device to cure her damaged fallopian tube. Eight months ago, Beatrice Sha're Jackson-Carter had made her entrance into the family, and had been a constant source of delight to them all.
To start with, Sam had been uncharacteristically neurotic about Beatrice, constantly worried about what could go wrong, and imagining tragedy around every corner. Janet had laughed at Sam's caution when she first handled her, and had reminded her that she wasn't made of china. "She's not going to break, hon," she had said, when Sam was changing an early diaper. "Just trust yourself."
Since then, Sam had become an expert on babies. Janet couldn't believe quite how many books she had read on the subject, covering all topics from breastfeeding to how to choose the right college. Even better, Sam had grown in confidence and finally learned to relax, believing that all would be fine with their precious little girl.
So, sitting in the rocker, holding her eight-month old daughter as she dropped off to sleep, Sam realized sleepily that she hadn't had the slightest idea of what constituted real happiness. This was real happiness; looking up at Janet who had just entered the room, she realized that her life was now complete, in a way it never was before. Janet gently took Beatrice from Sam's arms, and lowered her carefully into her cot. She then snuggled next to Sam on the rocker, her hand on her cheek.
It was only then she noticed the tears tracking down Sam's face. "Hey, what's up?" she asked, concern in her voice.
Sam couldn't trust herself to speak. She shook her head. "Nothing," she managed. "Just can't get over how perfect everything is; you, Cassie, Beatrice. And yes, even you Einstein," she looked at the 'dog' lying in his basket under the cot, 'guarding' its precious contents. "We're just so damned lucky."
Janet smiled, "Just wait until she's thirteen, then we'll see."
Sam laughed, and buried her face in Janet's chest. Yep, perfect.
Because of Sam and Daniel's new family commitments, General O'Neill had done his best to ensure that the two scientists were included on as few dangerous missions as possible. They had both more than done their bit in terms of protecting the planet, and there was plenty for them to do elsewhere. So Sam had been assigned the leadership of the technical team for the Daedalus, while Daniel was mostly involved in teaching new recruits about the importance of archeological and cultural finds on their missions, as well as taking the occasional trip offworld whenever the ruins were of particular interest. Janet was back at work, mostly full-time, and was taking advantage of the SGC's new daycare facilities, which had suddenly been opened just in time for them to take advantage of it. She knew that this was no coincidence; the general's soft spot for them all, Sam in particular, was obviously behind the development.
The rest of the SGC found it rather amusing that Sam was no longer always her lab at all hours. She still worked very long hours (despite Janet's chiding that she was putting her health at risk), but during the day could now often be found in the daycare center, Beatrice on her knee, while she worked out complicated equations on her handheld computer. And Daniel was almost as frequent a visitor, with Beatrice also often in his now baby-proofed lab. Janet regularly popped down to find Beatrice playing with one or other of his artefacts while he kept a close eye on her. Janet wondered if ever a child had been so loved by all her parents.
All of the SGC agreed (did any of them dare not?!) that Beatrice was a most engaging baby. She was bright (no surprises there) and funny and adventurous, keen to get her hands on everything, wanting to be involved in all that was going on. She rarely cried, and was known for her spontaneous laughter and sense of fun. She found Teal'c a particularly amusing companion, and in return the large alien adored her with all his heart. He was so gentle and careful with her it was easy to forget just how powerful he was.
Einstein had now taken to trailing Beatrice around on all her travels, so Sam saw a little less of him when they were at the SGC, but knew he was taking his 'guard dog' duties seriously. He still accompanied her offworld on her, now less frequent, reconnaissance missions, and was also well known to all the crew of the Daedalus.
Sgt Kath Collins from the Daedalus's ground crew occasionally brought her small mongrel to the hangar and, after a slightly unnerving start when Einstein was obviously concerned that he would be usurped in Sam's affections, the two creatures got along famously. Sam had laughed. "Susie's gorgeous Einstein, but not a patch on you sweeetheart, you'll always be my top dog." Sometimes she believed that Einstein really did understand every word she said. Well, they had established early on that he was a genius, hadn't they?
After a particularly long and trying day at the hangar, Sam returned home. Janet was scowling. "You do know it's nearly midnight, don't you?" she asked. Sam hadn't realized; she had got caught up in modifications to the hyperdrive, and thought it was still mid-evening, 2100hrs at the latest.
"I'm so sorry, honey," said Sam. "I should have called, I know, time just seemed to fly past. How's Bea?"
"Missing you," said Janet, "she's restless tonight, I think another tooth is coming through. And she wanted your magic touch to settle her."
Sam looked so penitent that Janet laughed, and pulled her to her. "Not to worry, you can make it up to me later. Something to eat?"
Sam shook her head, she'd been snacking all day, and was now so tired she was beyond hunger.
"It's not good for you, you know, that's three times this week you've missed your evening meal. No more, huh?"
Sam nodded. "I promise, from tomorrow, I'll be as good as gold."
Laughing Janet led her off to bed where, rather predictably, Sam fell off to sleep immediately. Four hours later, Janet woke with a start, to realize that the bed was empty next to her. She went straight through to Beatrice's nursery, where she saw her lover cradling their child. Beatrice's cheeks were red with teething, though judging by her drooping eyelids, she was just about to nod off again. Sam didn't look far behind her, sitting in the rocker, humming gently. "Bed for both of you, I think," said Janet quietly. "And you're sleeping late tomorrow, no arguments." She had seen the black circles beneath Sam's eyes, and they had long ago agreed that Sam would follow Janet's advice in matters of health.
So Sam didn't make it to the Daedalus until 0930hrs the next morning, refreshed and revitalized, and ready for another day "fiddling with doohickeys" as O'Neill put it. That man really was incorrigible, but Sam was grateful to him, he had allowed her to live a relatively normal family life, which was more than she had ever imagined she would be able to do. And she was leaving on time tonight, Cassie was visiting the family again.
Since Beatrice's arrival, Cassie visited even more regularly, often bringing Mike with her. Mike was a gentle giant of a man, who had brought so much joy into Cassie's life. He was still studying for his law degree, while Cassie completed her medical studies, and both of them worked part-time to make the rent. Sam regularly slipped a few hundred dollar's into her elder daughter's bank account. She knew how hard the pair of them were working, and wanted to do what she could to help. Janet also did the same thing, though neither of them told each other, both wanting to avoid the accusation of being a soft touch.
"Sam," Cassie cried, throwing herself into her arms. "You're almost on time," she teased, "can this possibly be in my honor?"
Sam laughed, holding her tight. "I'm a changed woman, Cass, your mom has seen to that."
"Nothin' I did," complained Janet. "It's another woman she comes home early for now." Smiling, she handed the 'other woman' over to Sam, who took her gladly. "Don't look so pleased," smirked Janet. "Your timing's perfect. Diaper duty."
"No Mike today, Cass?", asked Sam.
"Nah, working late again. He sends his love, and..." she fished in her pocket, pulling out a particularly garish teething ring, "he sent this for Bea, and says if it doesn't work, try vodka ice cubes, that's what his mom used to do."
Sam laughed. "I think I'll be putting them in my own drink if madam doesn't start sleeping all night again!"
The four of them had a lovely evening together, with Beatrice going to bed early, leaving the adults to enjoy themselves. Cassie insisted on staying the night. "My turn to watch Bea," she said firmly. "She is my sister after all, and I want to do this." So Sam and Janet had an uninterrupted night, which meant that Sam could leave at her usual time.
Unbeknownst to Sam, the house was being watched as she left at 0630hrs; two men in dark suits watched her clandestinely from a car across the street. "Not here," said the first one, "too busy. Wait until she gets to the hangar, the car park's always deserted at this time of day." The other nodded his agreement, and when Sam's Volvo pulled away from the kerb, they followed her at a discreet distance. They knew where she was going, so they didn't have to keep her in their sight all the time.
When Sam reached the hangar 20 minutes later, it was still not quite light in the streets, and the car park was no better. She reached into the back seat to get her bag and to let Einstein out, when she was suddenly grabbed round the middle. Instinctively, she kicked back, and jammed her elbow into her assailant's midriff. He collapsed to the ground, moaning. She then felt the cold steel of a revolver at her neck.
"Don't move blondie, or you won't live to regret it. And not a sound. Tie her up," he instructed his accomplice, "and get that mutt back in the car before I put a bullet through its brain."
The first man got up slowly from the ground, and took great delight in jamming Sam's face up against the wall while he roughly tied her hands behind her back. With great difficulty, he caught a yapping Einstein, throwing him into the back of Sam's Volvo, slamming the door. He quickly gagged Sam, and between them, they flung her into the back of their car, and drove off speedily.
When Sgt Kath Collins arrived half an hour later, she was surprised to see Einstein frantically jumping up and down in the car. Sam would never have left him in there. Apart from anything, he was hardly a normal 'dog'. His cute little horns made him who he was, but Sam knew well enough to keep him hidden so that they didn't attract any awkward questions about his provenance. So Kath guessed right away that something was wrong. She let Einstein out of the car, and then spotted Sam's car keys on the ground.
The SGC mobilized all possible resources to find Lt Col Carter. A forensic team at the scene established she had been taken by force, and the tracks from the car that had carried her off even told them what vehicle she had been taken in. But it wasn't much to go on.
"Get your hands off me, you bastard," shouted Sam, as soon as her gag was removed, earning herself a vicious punch in the face. Undaunted, with blood running from her nose, she looked up, "I don't know who you are, and I don't care. You'll get nothing from me."
This time her head ricocheted off the wall, and she collapsed to the floor.
"Leave her," snarled the first thug. "Let's see if she's a bit more co-operative after a few hours in here."
The room they left Sam in was freezing and dank; water ran down the walls. Sam guessed it was the cellar of an old house. The walls were thick, and the concrete steps coming down into it were well over a hundred years old. Her head ached viciously, throbbing violently with every movement. Sam explored the cellar, but found nothing of any use. It was clear from the fact that they had untied her that there was no chance of escape. She shivered. It must be below freezing in here. Why was it so cold?
Janet was numb with fear. This was one of her worst nightmares. Who had done this? And why? A car had come to her door only an hour ago, and she knew immediately that it was bad news when she saw Kath Collins's face. Kath had gently explained what had happened, and took Janet, Cassie Beatrice into the base, where SG-1 and O'Neill were already waiting for her. Daniel pulled her into his arms. "We're gonna find her, Jan, we always do. She's indestructible, you know that."
"We need to work out why, then we can work out where," reasoned O'Neill. "My guess is that somebody wants to know about the Daedalus, and Carter's our foremost expert. It makes sense to me that she's been taken 'cos she knows all about it."
"I concur," said Teal'c, solemnly. "I also believe that that means that Dr Fraiser-Carter and their daughters are now equally at risk. If, as it likely, Colonel Carter refuses to talk, it would be a logical next step for them to kidnap her family."
After long hours of negotiations, Janet reluctantly agreed to be taken to an allied planet with Beatrice, Einstein and Cassie. She pleaded with the general to be allowed to participate in the mission to rescue Sam, but was finally persuaded -- after much begging from Daniel -- that her presence would only make Sam more vulnerable. Transporting all of them to a different planet meant that they had no leverage on Sam. And O'Neill believed that Sam held information that was far too valuable for her captors to want her dead. And Sam was smart enough to know to take advantage of any weaknesses they may show.
"Bitch", shouted one of Sam's captors. "You think this is going to work? You will talk, that much I can guarantee, it's up to you how much pain you want to go through first." He aimed a swift kick at her abdomen, causing Sam to grunt, but not to cry out. She was determined not to show any weakness.
"She'll be here any moment, and once we take you to her, you'll understand the meaning of pain, and wish you'd told us what we wanted. You'll be begging to come back to us when she's had a chance to 'interview' you." The man sneered, and dragged Sam painfully to her feet. He gagged her, tied her arms with plastic ties, and marched her to the middle of the cellar. A white light engulfed them both.
Janet, Cassie and Beatrice (and, of course, Einstein) were accompanied by SG-12, which included the now-Captain Jennifer Hailey, with whom Sam had formed a bond when she was still a cadet, and was outsmarting all her superiors at the academy. Hailey had been to the house several times, and had been delighted for both Sam and Janet when Beatrice was born. Janet was relieved to see a familiar face, and Hailey was particularly solicitous of the wife and family of her hero, making sure that everything was done to ensure all their comfort.
The planet, P9R-3XL, was a temperate one, with a warm climate, clean water and no known predators. It was uninhabited, with only woodland creatures, and all of these seemed harmless. "Hmph, just like the last one," thought Janet, bitterly, remembering the volcanic eruption that had caused the earthquake that had buried the 'Gate, resulting in her and Sam being trapped for months.
"I know what you're thinking," said Hailey, "We've checked everything properly this time, nothing's going to go wrong. And we'll only be here a short time, just until they get Sam back safe and sound." Janet swallowed the lump in her throat.
Sam recognized that she had arrived in a Gou'auld mothership; what she couldn't understand was why. She had thought they had defeated all the Gou'auld. So what was this about? She was so cold and tired, her head still pounded, her throat was dry. And she was bruised and bloody, there was no part of her body that didn't hurt.
"Major Carter," said an all-too-familiar voice. "It is excellent to see you again. I imagine you thought you had seen the last of me." Sam flinched, involuntarily. During her last run-in with Nirrti, she had been within minutes of death when she was rescued. But for months afterwards, she was haunted by the experience, and it had taken all of Janet's support and understanding to help her through.
"Actually it's Colonel now," Sam spat. "I knew it was too much to hope that you'd stay dead."
"The usual treatment," Nirrti instructed one of her goons. "And then bring her back to me tomorrow morning. She will be eager to tell me all I need to know about the Daedalus then, I guarantee it."
If Sam didn't know exactly what 'the usual treatment' was, it all became abundantly clear to her. Too clear. Liberal use of the pain stick was only to be expected, and although this was agonizing beyond description, she was ready for it.
What she wasn't ready for was the psychological torture she underwent. She knew that visions of Janet and Beatrice, and sometimes also Cassie, trapped first in a burning building, and then underwater, and then on the edge of a precipice, were all delusions caused by the drug that the goon kept injecting her with. She knew that. Logically, she understood what was happening. But when the visions culminated in each of them dying a horrible death, again and again, she couldn't help but cry out.
After about eight hours, she was hosed down with freezing cold water, and left in an unbelievably cold cell on the ship. She touched the walls, was it possible that the room was actually refrigerated? She tried to make herself as warm as possible, drawing her battered limbs to herself, but it was impossible to stop shaking.
"Any news?" Janet asked desperately, as soon as the 'Gate flared.
"Nothin' yet," answered O'Neill. "We've ruled out NID and the Ori. We're waiting for Thor to get back to us, see if he's got any idea. He's usually on the ball with what's going on. In the meantime, we've mothballed the Daedalus, got it under heavy guard. We're rather hoping that whoever's responsible for taking Carter will find that an irresistible challenge and will show their hand. How're you doing doc? And how's my favourite baby girl?"
"She's missing Sam," replied Janet sadly. "Especially at night. We all are. But we're fine. I never said this to you before, Sir, but I really do appreciate all you're doing. Not just to find Sam, but to protect us. I know this isn't easy for you either. You want her back almost as much as we do."
"Place ain't the same without Carter trying to blind me with science at least twice a day," he said, gruffly, trying to hide his emotions. "Danny's going to drop by for an hour shortly, he's missing his girl. You'd better get the coffee on. I promise we'll keep you in the loop with any developments. And Janet," he added (he rarely used her first name), "try not to worry too much. Carter's the best I've ever known. If anybody can get back from wherever she is, it's her. O'Neill out."
By the time Daniel arrived about ten minutes later, Janet was a soggy mess.
After a few hours in the ice box, the guards came to get Sam, dragging her bodily to Nirrti's chamber. "Colonel Carter, are you ready to talk? I must know how the Daedalus's systems work, if I am to infiltrate the Tauri effectively."
"Go to hell," Sam said, dully. A guard seized her by the arm, twisting it viciously up her back. Through her screams, Sam heard a crack, and knew that it had broken. "Kill me if you want, do whatever you can to me. I'm not talking. And I know my family is safe, the SGC will have seen to that, so there's no point in trying that one." The guard delivered a well-aimed kick to her already bruised stomach. As she lost consciousness, Sam smiled to herself. They hadn't broken her.
"What the hell do you mean Nirrti?" demanded O'Neill. "She's dead. I know she's dead. I saw her die. What in God's name is going on?"
Thor explained that Nirrti had somehow been taken to sarcophagus in time, and was now back, intent on intergalactic domination. With Earth's victory over the Gou'auld, she now intended to take all the power for herself. But the easiest way in was to defeat the Tauri, and she had worked out that the Daedalus would be a huge stepping stone in her plan. But she didn't want to be caught out, so needed a suitable Tauri to explain all the systems to her. And there was one person on earth who understood better than anyone how the Daedalus worked. O'Neill kicked himself. He had deliberately made Carter head of the Daedalus team to try and keep her safe for a while, so that she could enjoy her new family. And now it had all backfired.
Sam swam back to consciousness. This was her ninth day of captivity. She was back in the icebox, but she no longer felt cold. She hadn't really felt cold for the last couple of days. She no longer felt anything. Dully, she realized that her wounds had become infected. She was wet again from that evil hose. Or maybe it was just sweat this time. She was running a fever, she knew that. She had a broken arm, had lost a lot of blood and, she reckoned, judging by the pain in her abdomen, she had internal bleeding. She knew she had broken ribs. And she was literally starving to death. For the first few days, she had reluctantly eaten the small amount of gray gruel that was delivered to her every day. But she had soon realized that the food was drugged, lowering her resistance further. So she no longer ate. And the only water came from the hose, so she had only what she could swallow at the time, or what she could wring out of her clothes.
She accepted that she would not get out of this alive, she knew that now. She knew her death was an inevitability. And she was happy to die, she had done what she intended, she had kept all the secrets of the Daedalus from Nirrti, she had not been broken. But she was heartbroken to be leaving Janet and her family. She and Janet had talked many times about what would happen if she didn't come back from one of her missions, Janet knew that it was a realistic possibility every time she stepped through the 'Gate. But she knew that her death would devastate her.
Summoning up what little strength she had left in her body, Sam decided that, as a final defiant act, she would do her best to kill Nirrti. It didn't matter that she was bound to fail. What mattered was that she had to try. So she smashed the earthenware bowl containing today's gruel, and carefully sharpened one of the larger pieces on the floor. Not an ideal weapon, but if she was careful, she could inflict some serious damage.
She rapped on the door. "I'll talk," she said, weakly. "Take me to her." She screamed in pain as they hauled her to her feet. Holding her broken left arm in her right hand, she staggered along the corridor, until she reached in Nirrti's chamber. "What d'you wanna know?" she asked.
"So she's on that bitch's ship, then?" asked the general. Thor nodded. "How do we get her back? Can you beam her back here?"
"Not until we are able to locate the ship, O'Neill," replied the Asgard. "We are scanning the galaxy, but it may take many hours. But as soon as we find her, we will act forthwith. Assuming she is still alive." O'Neill blanched.
"I am pleased you have come to your senses, Colonel Carter," purred Nirrti. "I knew it would not be long. Please, take a seat."
Sam made as if to sit, but at the last minute, feinted and lunged towards Nirrti with the sharpened piece of pottery. The 'goddess' had not expected anyone in so weakened a condition to put up a fight, so she reacted too slowly to stop Sam plunging the sharp fragment viciously in Nirrti's side, twisting it violently. One of the guards aimed his staff weapon at Sam's head. As the blast went off, a white light suddenly appeared, and then Sam was gone.
Sam rematerialized in the 'Gate room at the SGC, and had hit the decks before anyone realized what was happening. Daniel ran over to her. "Medical team to the 'Gate room, NOW," shouted O'Neill, running as fast as his legs would take him down the steps to the 'Gate room.
Daniel was holding Sam carefully. "She doesn't look good Jack," he said, a lump in his throat. "My God, what have they done to her?"
Sam was whisked to the infirmary, where Warner immediately took charge. SG-1 and O'Neill hung back, awaiting news. After what seemed like hours, Warner emerged from behind the curtain. "How bad?" asked the general.
"Broken arm, contusions, some pretty deep puncture wounds that are badly infected. She's dangerously dehydrated, and she's running a high fever. And I think she may be bleeding internally, I've ordered an immediate scan."
O'Neill nodded. "Do whatever you need to."
"Just as I thought," muttered Warner grimly. "Let's get her into surgery right away." Over the next two hours the internal damage was patched up, and Sam was wheeled into recovery. "I had to remove a section of the small intestine, which was ruptured and infected. But it was a good operation, I'm hopeful it was a complete success," said Warner. "But she's still very weak, and her fever is higher than I would like. I think we should keep her under sedation, at least for a day or two. She needs to keep as still as possible, we need to stop her jarring her broken ribs." Sam was wheeled to a private room.
"Dial P9R-3XL," O'Neill commanded. "We need Fraiser back here ASAP."
Within ten minutes, Janet and her entourage were back. "Go, Mom," said Cassie. "I'll stay with Bea. Go to her."
So Janet sprinted to the infirmary. But she had not been prepared for the sight that greeted her. She had been so desperate to see Sam that she had not really considered what condition she might be in. Sam's beautiful face was bruised and bloodied, her left eye swollen hideously, her once strong body emaciated. Her other injuries were too many to catalog. But she was here, and she was alive. A small spark of hope blossomed in Janet's breast. "You're gonna be fine, Sam," she whispered. "May take a little while, but you'll be back with us soon, hon."
Despite the sedation, Sam did not sleep easily. She was plagued with nightmares, and she regularly woke up, crying for her family. Janet stayed at her side throughout, sponging her down as her fever rose; reassuring her that she, Cassie and Beatrice were all well. Sometimes the message got through to Sam, other times she was too far gone for reason, and Janet, who had insisted on taking over her care, sometimes had no choice but to put her out completely. Cassie and Beatrice remained on base, and the young woman took it on herself to provide much of Beatrice's care, sharing duties with Daniel.
During Sam's rare lucid moments, Beatrice was taken to see her, in the hope that seeing her daughter would convince Sam that all the family were well. However, on Beatrice's third visit, Sam's face screwed up with fear, and she pushed her small daughter away. "Not gonna believe it," she gasped. "Next thing you're gonna start in on her, and if I believe she's real now..."
Her eyes rolled to the back of her skull, and she fell back on her pillows. "Fever's spiking again," snapped Janet, her hand on Sam's brow. "Let's get her cool, ice packs NOW." Frightened, Cassie took a bawling Beatrice away. There was no way for Cassie to explain to the eight-month-old tot what was going on.
Janet stripped away blankets, and started sponging Sam's fevered body, taking care not to exacerbate her many wounds. She gasped with dismay when she was confronted once again with the evidence of what her lover had been through.
Suddenly Sam convulsed, her limbs going rigid. "Ice bath STAT," commanded Janet, "she's seizing." With difficulty, Janet and her team lowered a jerking Sam into the bath, supporting her torso and leaning her gently forward to ease her ragged breathing. "I need some O2 here," Janet said, and Sam was hooked up to an oxygen mask in seconds. Janet was seriously worried, just how much could one person be expected to take? Sam's condition was critical and, thanks to Jolinar, she was resistant to many of the drugs that Janet would normally have used. Finally, Sam's seizure slowed and then stopped, and she slumped in Janet's arms. "Five more minutes," said Janet, holding her lover gently, "then let's get her dry and back in bed."
"I need to know what the hell's going on, and I need to know now," shouted O'Neill. "Is that bitch still alive? Is Carter still at risk?"
"We have only established that Nirrti's ship is no longer in the area, O'Neill," said Thor quietly, understanding the human's anguish. "We are currently scanning the galaxy, and as soon as we have information, we will inform you."
O'Neill nodded his thanks, sinking to his chair, his head in his hands.
Sam's fever had fallen to 102.7 degrees, still high but not dangerously so as before. Janet reluctantly decided that the best option was to induce a coma, as she knew her lover would likely not survive another episode in her weakened condition. So she adjusted the medication appropriately, ensuring that the level of IV nutrition was also increased. Sam had not managed to hold down any food at all since her return, and was continuing to lose weight, which she could ill afford to do.
Janet also made sure that Sam was never alone, with at least one member of her 'family' (which included SG-1) with her at all times. And she threw out all the rules of the infirmary when she allowed Einstein into the private room with Sam. The small creature (after a very thorough bath) settled on Sam's feet, and Janet was sure she could detect that Sam was a little calmer when he was there. Sam's breathing was still erratic, so an oxygen mask was fitted to her to supplement the nasal cannula. Janet dared to hope that all would be well.
"So what are you saying?" asked Daniel, a week later.
"Nirrti's still alive," replied Jack, wearily. "And she's gonna want revenge. We've got to move them all back to the planet, make sure she can't trace them. Staying at the SGC is too risky."
Daniel swallowed. "Well then let me go too, Jack, I want to be able to protect them if necessary." The general agreed. While Sam had made good progress in the last week, and had been woken from her coma after only three days, she was still far from well. Janet would have her hands full looking after Sam and Beatrice, with Cassie's help.
"I'm sending SGs 6 and 7 as well," O'Neill said. "We're not taking any chances with this one."
Janet was startled to hear the news, and tried to protest that Sam was still too ill to be moved.
Daniel put his hand on her arm. "We've got to do it, Janet, Sam's not safe here, nor are you. We've got to get you all somewhere Nirrti will never think to look. And as the planet wasn't included on the Abydos cartouche, there's a very good chance she's never even heard of it."
Janet knew it made sense, she just wanted the nightmare to end, to get back to the family life that meant everything to her.
She went back into Sam's room, where Cassie was sitting, reading her medical books. Janet was helping her keep up with her studies, even though she couldn't be at the college.
Cassie saw Janet's serious face, and tactfully withdrew. "Sam, hon," whispered Janet, rubbing her hand up Sam's uninjured arm. "We gotta talk."
Sam's eyes opened, and she grasped Janet's hand. Still, every time she woke, she needed reassurance that she was no longer a prisoner on Nirrti's ship. "Hey Jan," she rasped, "what's up?"
So Janet very gently told her that they would all be going away from a while. She didn't tell Sam the whole story, only explaining that it had been impossible to establish if Nirrti was dead (well, that much was true), so the general considered it safer for them all to be away for a while. A brief flash of panic crossed Sam's face, until she schooled it into a neutral expression.
"So how are we going to deal with her?" O'Neill asked Teal'c. "She never stays dead, whatever we do."
"If we are able to destroy the ship with Nirrti aboard, she will have no time to get to a sarcophagus," Teal'c said. "But we need to infiltrate her defenses and eliminate the ship's shield. It is my belief that if we can get one of our Jaffa allies to pose as one of her guards, we may be able to achieve this aim. I will speak with Master Bra'tac."
"But that could take months," exploded the general, "a spy in the ranks will take months to gain her trust."
"Nevertheless, I believe it is our best chance to succeed, if we are to eliminate her permanently," replied Teal'c, with his customary stoicism.
Sam, Janet, Cassie and Beatrice arrived in some state on P9R-3XL. SGs 6 and 7 went out a day ahead of them to ensure that the infrastructure was ready for them, though Janet was still nervous of moving Sam, who was still very weak and needed constant care. But she was thrilled by what had been prepared, and when she wheeled Sam's chair to the 'infirmary' tent, she saw the all the equipment had been set up ready for them. The SGC had spared no expense in providing generators and all the monitors and diagnostic equipment Janet could have wished for. The short trip had exhausted Sam, so Janet settled her straight into bed.
Two months later
"It is good news," said Teal'c. "Can'ac is now on Nirrti's ship, and has been accepted by the rest of the guard. He believes he will be able to take down the shields in a matter of weeks; at present, he is not permitted access to that level."
O'Neill was delighted. All he needed now was reassurances that the Daedalus would be ready for launch, and that the troublesome weapons system would be all sorted in time.
"I'm sorry, general" said Sgt Collins. "We just don't have the expertise here. We need Colonel Carter's input."
So after negotiating with Janet, it was agreed that Collins could got to the planet to work with Sam on the weapons system. Sam was very much better, but still tired easily, and Janet insisted that the time she spent working be strictly limited. Sam was pleased; she was beginning to get stir-crazy, and the idea of having something to work on was exciting. She was also relieved, as they all were, that something concrete was in hand to deal with Nirrti once and for all.
"Tell her to bring Susie," called Sam, "Einstein's getting lonesome!" Janet was delighted to see the rise in Sam's spirits. She was very down much of the time, and inevitably was still struggling with the trauma of her abduction. But Beatrice was a great tonic, and had helped enormously to bring Sam out of herself. She was with Sam when she managed her first steps; sentimentally Janet suspected that she'd saved them for Sam to cheer her from her sadness.
So each day for the next three weeks, Kath Collins 'gated to P9R-3XL, where she -- together with her laptop -- was rapturously welcomed by Sam. "Where's Susie?" demanded Sam, on her first visit. Kath had thought she was joking, but Sam assured her she had been in deadly earnest, so Kath promised to bring her on future visits.
In the three hours allowed by Janet each day, the two women worked together, and by the middle of the third week, were pretty sure that they had ironed out all the problems. Each day Kath went back and tested out what they had been working on, reporting back to Sam the next day. By the end of the third week, Kath was able to report to O'Neill that the Daedalus was as ready as it could be.
The Daedalus launched, with Teal'c and O'Neill aboard. Teal'c was in almost constant contact with Can'ac, which was essential to synchronize Can'ac taking out the shield with the Daedalus launching its attack; the plan was to give Can'ac the time to escape by death glider, so every second was important.
"Teal'c!" called Can'ac, sounding distressed. "They've found her, they know where Colonel Carter is. From what I can gather, they are sending a platoon of Jaffa immediately. You must warn them."
When the 'Gate sprang to life on P9R-3XL, there was no immediate concern. They all assumed it was the SGC sending another radio transmission. But when the Jaffa came through, their staff weapons already firing, Sam's military instincts immediately kicked in.
Despite her weakness, she commanded the troops, snatching up her own P90 and organizing a three-pronged retaliation to the attack. She shouted at Janet to get Beatrice and Cassie out of the firing line, and watched with satisfaction as, one after one, the Jaffa fell to their fire. Fortunately, the Jaffa were notoriously poor shots so, apart from one nasty staff weapon burn to the arm suffered by one member of SG-6, they were all alright.
"Check they're all dead," Sam told Maj Redgrave, "they can be sneaky." Almost as if this were a prophecy, one of the maimed Jaffa sat up and aimed his weapon at Sam's head. At this moment, Einstein launched himself at the Jaffa, barking furiously, in a desperate attempt to save his beloved mistress. Sam could only watch with horror as the staff weapon instead hit Einstein in the abdomen.
Redgrave took out the Jaffa with a single shot between the eyes. "Einstein!" Sam yelled, running over to where the plucky creature had fallen. "Oh God, no, Einstein, please God, you've got to be alright." As she gathered him gently into her arms, she could see only too clearly what devastating damage the staff weapon had wrought on this gentle, loyal creature she had adopted. As his blood poured down her front, she could feel the life force ebbing from him. Einstein died as he had lived; with his eyes fixed devotedly on Sam.
O'Neill knew that the Jaffa regiment sent to P9R-3XL was not a great threat in itself. He had absolute confidence in his forces that they would be able to take them down with minimal difficulty. It was what lay behind the attack that worried him; he knew that Nirrti was just looking for confirmation that her intelligence had been correct, and that Carter was on that planet. If Jack knew Nirrti, and, he thought grimly, he knew her better than he had ever wanted to, she was preparing to go to the planet herself to recapture Carter. And he could not allow that.
"We've got to do it NOW, Teal'c," he said, "before she sets a course for the planet." Teal'c nodded, and conveyed the information to Can'ac. In a matter of minutes, he received confirmation that the shield had been destroyed, and that Can'ac was on his was to the glider bay. He checked his watch, giving Can'ac the allocated three minutes to get away, then ordered an all-out attack on the ship.
It was with some satisfaction that the two men were able to watch from the Daedalus as Nirrti's ship went up in a ball of flames. They both knew what Sam had suffered at the hands of the self-styled goddess, and that Sam would be coping with the aftermath for a long time to come. Teal'c was also delighted when his radio crackled and he heard Can'ac requesting permission to bring his glider aboard. "Turned out to be a good day after all," said O'Neill with some satisfaction.
With the threat eliminated, all members of the Carter/Fraiser/Jackson family were able to return to their respective homes. Mike was overjoyed to see Cassie again; while they had remained in contact with letters and emails passing through the Stargate almost every day, they had missed each other dreadfully.
Janet was relieved to be able to bring Sam back home. It had been months since she had been abducted and there had been times when Janet had thought she'd never get her back where she belonged. And Sam tried her best to shake off her despondency and respond to Janet's care and love in her own home.
But on the first night, when she thought she heard Beatrice crying, she went to her cot and was startled to notice Einstein's basket underneath, in the 'guard dog' position he had insisted on keeping. Beatrice was sound asleep, but Sam found her own eyes welling and, for the first time in months, wept over all that she had been through, for Janet's suffering, for Cassie, for Beatrice. And for Einstein, who had been an innocent in a war that was none of his making.
Janet stood at the doorway for some time, watching her lover lower herself into the rocker, clutching Einstein's blanket to her face, sobbing. After a while, she stepped forward and knelt at Sam's feet. She reached up and folded the taller woman in her arms, holding her and comforting her as shuddering sobs wracked her body. "Shh, hon," she murmured gently, "it's all going to be okay now. We're all gonna be fine. Just let it go."
Sam remained on sick leave, on the understanding that she could be allowed back on base part-time in about six weeks if her progress were good. Sometimes living with your doctor had its disadvantages, she grumbled. Janet knew only too well that Sam still did not sleep well, that she tired far too easily, and that she still suffered periods of deep depression and anxiety. Sam did her best to hide these from Janet, but Janet was always there when she woke suddenly in the throes of a nightmare, and was there to soothe away the demons. But her progress was steady, if a little slow, and Janet rejoiced in it.
One morning about five weeks after their return from P9R-3XL, Sam's cellphone went off when she was in the shower. "I'll get it," called Janet. When Sam emerged, freshly showered and dressed, Janet was smiling broadly.
"Who was that on the phone?" asked Sam.
"It's a surprise," grinned Janet, teasingly. "And when you've had your breakfast, we're going for a little drive." Intrigued, Sam did as she was told, and then made her way slowly to the car.
About 20 minutes later, Janet pulled into a small residential road. Intrigued, Sam followed her up the pathway. Janet rang the doorbell. A familiar face came to the door. "Kath!" cried Sam. "What the hell is going on?"
"Janet didn't tell you, then," laughed Kath. "Follow me, you'll soon see."
And in the corner of Kath's lounge was a dog basket, containing Susie and three small pups. All of which had small horns on their heads. Just like Einstein. "How old?" whispered Sam.
"Nearly two weeks," replied Kath, proudly, "just wanted to make sure they were alright before we told you about them."
Janet was beaming, her smile as wide as the sea. "We thought maybe you'd like to bring one home with you when it's old enough," she said, "there's two girls and a boy. I guessed you'd want a boy again, but it's up to you."
Sam nodded, her beautiful blue eyes glittering with unshed tears. "Here," said Kath, "why don't you hold him, see what you think" and she gently lowered the small pup into Sam's outstretched palms.
The 'dog' looked up adoringly at Sam, his gaze so like his father's that Sam couldn't speak. She kissed him gently. "Gonna call him Leo," she whispered. "Leonardo da Vinci was an incredible genius, and this one's going to be a genius too, just like his dad."
Janet's eyes also filled, and she led Sam to the couch where she sat quietly with Leo. "He's staying with Susie for another six weeks," explained Kath, and then he's all yours to take. I'm keeping one of the bitches myself. And I'm going to call her MC, after Marie Curie." She laughed shyly. "I thought we should keep the genius theme going."
"So who's having the other one then?" asked Sam. Just then the doorbell rang.
"I think that might be your answer now," Janet twinkled. Kath let O'Neill into the house. He came over and hugged Sam and Janet.
"Good to see you up and about Carter," he said, with real feeling. "You've made your choice then," he indicated the pup in her arms. "So I get one of the girls?" he asked. "That's great news, I've got my genius name already picked out." Sam looked at him quizzically. "Well there's only one woman I know of who's a certifiable genius. So I think I'm gonna call her Carter."
Next: The Best Of Times