Category: Drama, AU
Season: During the Second season, just after the events in "Spirits."
Disclaimer: These folks don't belong to me. I stole them from MGM's toybox without asking their mommies for permission. I promise to return them more or less unscathed.
Archive: Yes, just let me know where it'll be.
Spoilers: "The Enemy Within," "The First Commandment," "Prisoners," "A Matter of Time," "1969,"
Summary: Janet is lost off-world and Sam must try to find a way to get her back.
Thank you to Hl for the banners... Check out the poster in the Gallery!!!
Sam sat up in bed and ran a hand over her face, trying to forget the nightmare she had woken out of. "Go back to sleep, Janet," the blonde whispered, slipping out of bed and walking to the bathroom. She tugged on the waistband of her sweatpants and sighed, turning on the sink and looking at her haggard reflection in the mirror. "I know," she whispered over her shoulder. "I know. I'm not sleeping well. It's just... I'll be fine," she promised Janet. "Now go to bed. You need your sleep too. I'll be there in a minute."
After a long moment, Sam filled her water glass and took a long swallow. "I just want the nightmares to stop," she told her reflection. "Is that too much to ask?"
She turned off the light and went back to bed. "Good-night, Janet. Sorry I woke you."
But Janet wasn't in bed next to her. Janet was a thousand light years away, on the other side of an ion cloud. Lost. Stranded. Alone. Sam buried her face into the pillow and closed her eyes. And again, just like every other night over the past two weeks, the nightmare started again.
"Every now and then, soft as breath upon my skin
I feel you come back again and it's like you haven't been
Gone a moment from my side
Like the tears were never cried
Like the hands of time are holding you and me
And with all my heart I'm sure
We're closer than we ever were
I don't have to hear or see,
I've got all the proof I need
There are more than angels watching over me
I believe, I believe."
-- Diamond Rio
The world was a marble in the vast indifference of space. It hung between two dead worlds, content with it's own existence and finding no reason to look for life elsewhere. They had neighbors and enemies right there on their own planet; who needed other worlds to complicate things? Surrounding the solar system was a sheer curtain of purple light, a truly beautiful sight to behold from any vantage. It caused the sky of the small planet to be amethyst-tinted during the night and a brilliant lilac during the day.
Four moons orbited the small world. All were uninhabited, like the other planets in the solar system. They were visible even in the day, a quartet of magenta orbs appearing to hover only a few feet out of reach.
The people called their world Sekhet-Aanru. In legends, the name had been bestowed upon them by the god Osiris. In their homeland of Tanenet, their ancestors had been subject to a multitude of deadly diseases. Death was running rampant. Osiris had gathered the bodies of the deceased and transported them to an island, where he revived them with a sarcophagus. The cost of this resurrection was undying loyalty to Osiris.
Fortunately, a group of aliens that called themselves the Ancients intervened. The Ancients arrived and liberated the people of the islands and transplanted them to a world where Osiris would never find them. The curtain that gave them their beautiful sky also protected them from invasion. Ships could not pass through the barrier. Transport rings, anything the Goa'uld could have used to enslave the liberated people would not be able to pass through. The people were, for the first time in many, many centuries, free.
Centuries passed. The reasons for their isolation were slowly forgotten and the intervention of the mystical and brilliant aliens was considered a rumor. Skeptics assured the people that they had been born on Sekhet-Aanru and the story about the Ancients was nothing but a fairy-tale. The people forgot about the dangers that lurked beyond their protective curtain and began to devise ways to penetrate it. One scientist, a young prodigy named Deshret created a beam that would dispurse the barrier for a brief time.
He placed the beam generator near a stone ring believed to be of religious importance (although what importance, no one knew) and activated it. Deshret was blown back from his creation, his arm covering his eyes to protect them from damage. The rest of the village wasn't as lucky; the beam created a deafening boom that did just that... people within earshot were struck deaf. Anyone foolish enough to turn their eyes toward the beam saw the sky go black, their eyesight lost. Religious leaders proclaimed this was punishment from the gods for attempting to destroy the barrier, but the damage had been done. The barrier had been pierced and, for the first time in remembered history, their world was connected to the rest of the universe.
It took the Aanru centuries to open their world to outsiders. It took the SGC computers twenty minutes to lock onto a previously unavailable address and begin dialing.
The MALP information came in quickly and steadily. Hospitable atmosphere, temperate, a little hotter than normal, but nothing they couldn't handle. A decent-sized town nearby, and people milling around the strange object that had just arrived on their planet. Everything on the monitor was dyed deep purple, causing Hammond to squint. "Is that a malfunction?"
"No, Sir," Sergeant Davis reported. "Our instruments are correct... We're seeing it exactly as it is."
Hammond nodded. "Any signs of Goa'uld occupation?"
From behind him, Sam Carter reported, "Just a few symbols here and there that I think are Egyptian. We should have Daniel take a look, just to be sure. But all signs show that this world isn't occupied by a Goa'uld. Every reference or symbol or carving is ancient and falling apart. I don't think we'd be in any danger."
Pursing his lips, Hammond nodded. "Agreed. Captain, inform Colonel O'Neill you have a go for first contact." He paused, then said, "Go in with contamination suits and take Doctor Fraiser with you."
Sam paused. "Sir?"
"Some of these people appear to be bleeding, Major. We should take all precautions."
"Right, Sir," Sam nodded, turning and leaving the command center.
In thirty minutes, all of SG-1 had been rounded up and were waiting in the Gate Room. Sam tried to look casual as she weaved between her teammates, eventually ending up beside a certain brunette doctor. "Hi," she said softly.
Janet smiled and looked at the Stargate. "I'm going through that again," she said, as if trying to make herself believe it.
"Yep," Sam grinned. "Trip number two. You're making a habit of this." She toyed with the yellow suit that Janet was wearing, then added, "You look cute."
"Thanks," Janet rolled her eyes. "I look like a big yellow rubber kid's toy."
Sam laughed, the sound drowned out by the Stargate opening. "Well, kids," Jack O'Neill said. "Into the wild blue yonder." He led the way up the ramp, followed by Daniel and Teal'c. Sam put a hand in the small of Janet's back and gently prompted the petite woman towards the Gate. They stepped through together and instantly found themselves standing in a clearing, with towering trees and an orchid-tinted sky.
A few of the people standing around were covering their ears, wincing in pain as they watched the visitors. Jack turned slightly, facing Daniel. He held out a hand in invitation and the linguist stepped forward. "Uh... uh, hello. My name is Daniel Jackson. This is Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c, Captain Carter and Doctor Fraiser. We're... peaceful. We just want to share our world with you."
One man nearby shook his head and raised his voice to a near-shout. "We cannot hear! Our ears were damaged by the beam!"
He pointed to a large mushroom-shaped object standing next to the Stargate. It was dormant now, smoke rising from the hole in the center. Sam made her way over to it. "It's some kind of particle beam generator, Sir. I'd love to take a look at it."
Daniel had taken a pad of paper from his pack and scribbled his initial introductions. He added, "We are interested in sharing technology and information with you."
He handed it to the man who had spoken. He released one ear to take the pad, revealing the bloody mess it had become. Jack winced and looked away. The man tapped himself in the chest and said, "Deshret."
"Deshret?" Daniel asked. "Is that your name?"
The man nodded. "Deshret. You're... uh, you are," he looked at the pad and mispronounced, "Dan-eye-ell?"
"Dan-yull," he corrected, writing the enunciation down. "Daniel." He pointed. "Jack. Sam. Teal'c. Janet."
"What is she doing to the beam?" Deshret asked, pointing at Sam.
Sam held her hands up. "I just want to look at it," she said, forming her words carefully. "Find out how it works."
"I built it," Deshret said. "I could show you."
"You built this?" Sam asked. She gave him another look. He was young, extremely young. His brown hair was dirty and long, hanging loose around his shoulders. Blood marked the sides of his face and glistened on his stubble. He had a square face, a strong jaw and deep brown eyes. Sam thought he looked more like a movie star than a genius. Of course, when most people found out that she was an astrophysicist... She pat the hull of the beam and said, "I'd love to see your lab." Deshret squinted, so she repeated, "I'd... LOVE to see your LAB. Where you built this."
Deshret nodded. "Yes. Yes, please. Right this way." He chuckled and looked at his bloody hands. "Hopefully we can also find a person who was not deafened by the beam's activation."
Sam turned to O'Neill. "Sir, if these injuries were caused by the beam... the MALP is reading the air clean of contamination. Maybe we could lose the decon suits?"
The Colonel nodded, already unhooking his helmet. "Exactly what I was thinking. Captain, take Teal'c and check out this guy's lab. Fraiser, Daniel, you're with me. Let's see if we can help some of these people."
Janet glanced at Sam, smiling as the blonde walked off with Deshret. Sam winked, then turned and fell into step with the alien. Janet caught up with Jack, kneeling next to a man who was bleeding from his ears and nose. "It's okay," she told him. "I'm a doctor, it's okay..."
Sam pulled off her helmet and ran a hand through her hair, looking around the village as they made their way through the dirt- and garbage-lined streets. Sam ignored the unsanitary conditions, thinking it could just be trash day in this particular neighborhood. She indicated over her shoulder. "So this beam... it was used to..."
"Penetrate the cloud," Deshret explained.
"Cloud?" Teal'c asked.
Deshret nodded. "For as long as anyone can remember, our world has been surrounded by an impenetrable cloud. Some said that it was a sign that the rest of the universe was uninhabited and we should not explore. Others claimed it was to protect us and that the aliens that *did* exist were hostile. I believed otherwise... I believed there were friends waiting out there. Friends like you."
Sam smiled. "That would be why the SGC computers could never lock on before now. The cloud was bouncing it away. As for friends... from what I've seen, I don't think our government would have any complaints to establishing diplomatic relations."
"This is the lab," Deshret said, either ignoring or not hearing her comments and indicating a small adobe building. "This is where I constructed the components of the beam. Come. I will show you." He started towards the building, obviously eager to share what he had accomplished after so many years of being shunned by his peers.
Teal'c hung back and put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Perhaps we should not be so eager to befriend these people."
"Why not?" Sam asked, trying to think of something to have made Teal'c suspicious.
"Deshret claims this world was protected by an impenetrable barrier... There is also the possibility that the barrier was in place to keep these people on their world."
"Like a prison?" Teal'c nodded. "I don't think an entire planet would be turned into a prison, Teal'c..."
"On your world, the continent of Australia was once a penal colony for British criminals. The world Hadante had also--"
Sam interrupted, "I see your point. I see your point. Okay. Maybe we shouldn't jump the gun." She caught Teal'c's raised eyebrow and said, "Uh, we shouldn't be so eager." Teal'c nodded and they started towards the lab as Deshret exited. "Deshret, I apologize. We needed to discuss something."
"I understand," Deshret said. "Please, right this way."
Janet soon determined that the damage was concentrated to a two block radius around the Gate. The injured were brought to a large common building at the center of town where she could treat them quickly. She made the rounds, went to the stream and refilled the hospital's water supply just in case. By the time she finally got to treating the injured, she was feeling like a doctor in some third-world country in the grips of a war. As she examined the bleeding and terrified people, Jack waited in the doorway and stared up at the sky, following purple clouds as they washed across the lavendar sky. Some people were already beginning to recover; their deafness reduced to a heavy ringing that Janet believed would fade quickly. Others weren't so lucky. She bandaged their eyes and ears before going to O'Neill to make her report.
"The damage is severe, but I don't think it's permanent. I think some of the retina burns are already healing themselves. If treated properly, I think we could save almost all of these people's hearing and sight."
Jack nodded. "All right then. I'll have Hammond assign a medical team as well as the diplomats. You ready to head back to the rendezvous?"
"In a minute," Janet nodded. "There are some kids here, I want to keep an eye on them. Make sure they're all right."
"See you at the Gate in," he checked his watch. "Ten?"
"Yes, Sir," Janet said, turning and going back into the make-shift hospital.
Jack sighed and adjusted his cap, leaving the building and making the trip back to the Stargate. As he approached the DHD, he spotted two people running towards him from the back of town. Frowning, he pulled his goggles off and stepped in their direction. "Carter?" he asked, recognizing the contamination suits his teammates still wore.
As soon as they were close enough for him to hear, Carter shouted, "Dial the Gate now! Dial, Sir, or we're not getting home!"
A Few Minutes Earlier...
Deshret lit a candle and some of the deeper shadows in the lab fled for the corners. He placed the candle on top of a shelf and turned to the two aliens, smiling at them. "This is where I work," he said proudly.
Sam picked up one of the rudimentary tools and scanned the rest of the table. "You made a beam capable of reaching space... using *this*?"
"As I said," Deshret chuckled. "It was not easy. It took many years and cost me the scorn of many people in my village. Of course... we all know who they will believe now."
Sam smiled. "I'd say we do." She moved down the length of the table and picked up what looked to be a PDA. There was a sketch on it of a planet, surrounded by a purple haze. "What is this?" she asked.
"My scanner," he said a bit shyly. "It's... not very advanced, but it did help me determine the density of the cloud. You see, the particles that made up the cloud had an effect on an element here called terrypijn. The cloud cause terrypijn seeds to rearrange themselves in a certain way. So... using terrypijn seedlings, I devised a way to show myself how successful the beam would be."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Not very advanced? Seems pretty high-tech to me," she admitted. She examined the scanner, then set it down again. Through the door, she saw Janet - out of her yellow contamination suit and wearing the black shirt and green trousers that were standard for off-world missions - walking across the square. "Deshret, would you mind showing Teal'c some of this? I have to go somewhere for a few minutes."
"It is not a problem," Deshret nodded.
Sam left the lab and followed Janet's path across the square.
Tall arrow-headed shoots of wheat danced in the breeze, painted light purple by the sky. Janet knelt next to the stream, filling one of three containers with water. Sam knelt next to the petite doctor, resting a hand between the brunette's shoulder blades. "Hey," Janet said softly.
"Hi," Sam smiled. "Having a good time?"
Janet smirked. "I'm in the middle of a disaster situation, Sam." The blonde arched an eyebrow and Janet laughed. "So, yes, kind of. I am having a little fun. Getting to be the hero for once."
Sam's hand traveled up, her fingers lightly resting on the back of Janet's neck and squeezing. "For once?" Sam said. "I seem to recall you finding the cure for the Touched virus, helping me take down Hathor and her horny cronies... and you're always a hero to your patients. Janet Fraiser, SUPERDOC!"
Janet chuckled and said, "Yeah, sure." Sam's hand continued it's massage and the brunette's head lifted, her chin pointing out across the field. "Ooh," she sighed, rolling her head to deepen Sam's massage. "You're going to have to stop that."
"Why?" Sam asked, kissing the skin just above Janet's earlobe.
"Because if you keep it up much longer, I'm going to ask you to do my shoulders. If I ask you to do my shoulders, I'll have to take off my shirt. If I take off my shirt, you won't be able to hold yourself back and we'll end up *in flagrante* in the middle of a mission."
Sam smiled and kissed Janet's lips. "You've got it all figured out."
"I've got *you* all figured out." She grabbed the front of Sam's suit and pulled the blonde forward, capturing her lips and knocking herself onto her back. Their collapse caused a sea of wheat seeds to rise into the air and be captured by the breeze. Janet broke the kiss and pointed up. "Sam... Sam, look."
Sam followed one elegant finger and looked into the sky. The purple-hued wheat was carried along the violet sky, like a thousand stars knocked out of their orbits and trying to get home. Sam looked down at Janet, noting the doctor had several of the seeds had found new homes in the brunette's eyebrows and on her lips. Brushing the doctor's mouth free of the alien wheat, Sam bent down and kissed her softly. "I have to get back," Janet whispered.
"I know," Sam nodded, rubbing the tip of her nose against Janet's. "I do, too."
Reluctantly, Sam pulled herself up and then helped Janet to her feet. They brushed each other off, then Sam helped Janet pick up the pitchers of water she'd been sent to retrieve. They kissed once more, a quick peck, then headed back to the village.
Teal'c didn't look happy.
Sam entered and paused, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Teal'c was standing at one end of the lab, his eyes covered by a pair of thick glasses. The lens of the glasses were painted black. His hands were stretched out in front of him, as if he had suddenly gone blind. "Teal'c?"
"Captain Carter," he said, sounding a bit relieved.
Deshret looked up and saw Teal'c speaking, then turned. "Oh! Sam! You've returned. I was just demonstrating my after-dark eyes to your friend here." He pulled the goggles away and Teal'c's eyes widened, the Jaffa seeming relieved to be free of the device.
"We have something like that," Sam said. "We call them night-vision goggles."
"Night vision... I like that," Deshret smiled. He turned the goggles over in his hands and put them on the counter.
As he was fiddling with the goggles, Sam picked up the scanner she'd seen earlier and tilted her head to the side. "Deshret?" He didn't answer. She remembered his temporary deafness and touched him on the shoulder. "Deshret." He turned and she held up the scanner. "What does this mean? It's changed."
"It's probably just attempting to reconfigure itself to make up for the hole my beam put in it." He took the scanner from her and looked at the readout. "You see, this is... the..." he slowed, a line appeared between his eyebrows. "No."
"The cloud," he explained, showing them the scanner. "There, do you see that opening? That is what allowed you passage to this world." He swallowed nervously. "It is closing."
"What?!" Sam repeated, eyes widening.
"Slowly, slowly of course, but it is closing. I am afraid the beam was not powerful enough to cause a permanent opening." He looked down at the scanner and said, "Please... it is imperitive that you leave now. Or you will not get home."
The Stargate whooshed out at them and Sam turned, scanning the crowd. "Where's Janet?"
Jack looked down at the scanner Sam had handed him. "She's at the hospital," he realized, cursing under his breath. "Goddamnit." He thumbed his radio. "Fraiser! Fraiser, do you read me?" There was no reply. "Doctor Fraiser, please respond!"
There was a burst of static, then a voice said, "Cap. Cap. Cap-p-p-p-phhbbbt."
Jack turned and looked at his team, then looked at the scanner. "We've got to go," he said, making his way towards the Gate. Daniel and Teal'c went through first. Jack was about to pass through when he heard Sam's voice.
"I'm not leaving Janet," Sam said.
The sky was turning deeper purple, the cloud cover becoming more dense. "Carter, we have got to go. We cannot wait for her."
Sam pulled away from him and turned towards the town. "JANET! JANET!"
Jack grabbed Sam by the back of her contamination suit and spun, dragging her to the ground. He carried her to the Stargate and threw her at the base, leaning over her. "I do not want to throw you through back to Earth, but I will. Go, Carter. I'll stay behind for Fraiser."
Sam stood and spotted Janet, impossibly far away, standing at the mouth of an alley. The event horizon faltered, sputtering loudly. "Carter," Jack hissed, pulling her to her feet. "Go. Now. I am not repeating myself."
Sam watched Janet as the petite doctor slowly made her way towards the Gate. "She doesn't understand, Sir! She doesn't-- JANET! You're going to be stranded here!" She thumbed her radio and said, "JANET!? Janet, goddamnit, why aren't you listening to your radio?!"
Jack thrust Sam backwards towards the failing Gate, but she swept her feet under his legs. The Colonel collapsed on top of her and they both fell back, breaking through the event horizon. When they landed on the ramp, Jack still felt a tingling in his lower body, a sign that part of him was still in transit through the wormhole. He grit his teeth and cursed, pulling himself completely through the Stargate and bending his knees. His boots cleared the event horizon just as it fully lost contact with the alien world.
Sam was kneeling behind him on the ramp, hands between her spread knees as she stared at the empty ring. Her lower lip was trembling and she looked like she was about to explode. "No... di-dial it again."
"Deshret was quite certain we would not be able to penetrate the cloud," Teal'c said.
Sam stood. "No. Goddamnit, Janet, why weren't you wearing your radio?"
Janet winced and knelt in front of the little girl, smiling as she examined the girl's bleeding ears. "Hey, sweetheart," Janet said softly. She touched the girls cheek and lightly probed her earlobe. "Can you hear what I'm saying?"
The girl nodded. "Good, good," Janet said. "My name is Janet. What's your name?"
"Wow, what a pretty name," Janet said, pulling out a swab and clearing the girl's ear canal. As she worked, she felt something tugging on her shoulder. Aani was playing with her radio. Janet chuckled and unhooked it. "You like this, huh? You wanna hold it?" Aani snatched it, looking at the black plastic like it was the most precious thing she'd ever seen. "I'll want it back eventually," Janet said. She stood and walked to the next bed, focusing on their injuries.
There was a burst of static through the radio, which made Aani jump and drop the radio on her lap. "Fraiser! Fraiser, do you read me?" A pause, then, "Doctor Janet Fraiser, please respond!"
Aani hit the side of the radio and the voice went silent. "Cap. Cap. Cap-p-p-p-phhbbbt." Aani said, pushing the radio to one side.
Janet turned to Aani. "Did you say something, sweety?"
Aani shook her head no. Janet brushed the girl's hair and went back to what she was doing. "You'll have to keep this on for three days, do you understand," she told her patient, holding up three fingers. "Three. Now--"
"JANET! JANET!" The voice had come from outside, from quite a distance.
The doctor turned. "Sam...?" She walked to the door of the hospital, stepping outside. The sky had gotten a little darker, the clouds a bit more ominous. She spotted the team at the Gate, then noticed the Gate was active. "We're leaving?" she asked.
Daniel and Teal'c were already gone, but Sam and Jack seemed to be fighting each other. The event horizon was failing. God, what had happened? Janet broke into a run. She was halfway to the Gate when the two officers fell backwards, collapsing through the Gate. Janet saw Jack's feet sticking out of the event horizon, his lower body in danger of being amputated. He scrambled, his boots disappearing through the wall of water. A few seconds later, the wormhole coughed and died.
Janet hurried to the DHD and quickly dialed Earth's address. She pressed the center dome... and nothing happened. "What," she breathed, redialing and pressing down on the center dome with all her might. Still nothing. "God... God, God, God, what happened..."
Deshret appeared, breathing heavily and looking at the Gate. He turned to Janet and frowned, then realized what her presence meant. "Oh, my God. You're still here..."
Sam sat up in bed, breathing heavily. Everything had seemed so real... She had even felt the ramp grating on her back as she fell onto it. She shook her head and fell out of bed, undressing and heading to the shower. "Did you want first shower?" she asked the unwrinkled sheets on the side of the bed next to hers. "Are you sure? I may be a while." She waited, then laughed. "Well, if you want to join me all you have to do is ask."
She went into the bathroom and turned on the hot water. She sat on the toilet and looked at her hands. "I know you're not there. What am I, insane?" She brushed her cheek and shook her head. "Come back to me," she whispered, covering her face. "Come back to me."
When General Hammond was angry, he didn't walk. He didn't even march. He stomped. He balled his hands into fists, tensed every muscle in his body and *pounded* his way through the corridors of the SGC. He threw doors open, slammed them shut in his wake. When he was angry, he was a force to be reckoned with. He entered the briefing room about three notches above that anger level and stood behind his chair. "What happened?" he demanded. An officer had been lost on a routine mission. That was unacceptable.
To the best of her ability, Sam explained what had happened off-world. She explained the cloud that surrounded Sekhet-Aanru as Deshret had explained it to her. She described the injuries the beam had caused and the reason the team had been separated. When Hammond asked about the brawl in the Gate Room, which several SFs had told him about, and Jack explained the situation. Hammond slowly nodded before thanking Jack for making sure his team got home okay, then thanked Sam for her dedication to her teammate. Sam had to look at the table to avoid his eyes.
"Yes, Sir," she said weakly. Before Hammond dismissed them, Sam stood. "Sir? I-if I may? I suggest attempting to redial the Aanru Gate. In case they've used the beam to reopen the cloud."
"Very well," Hammond said.
The team moved to the control room, where Hammond ordered them to redial the Aanru Gate. Davis didn't do anything differently, but Sam wanted to scream at him to hurry up. Sam watched the inner ring spin and bit her lip. 'God, this is going to be quite a story. I can't wait for Janet to come home. We'll hug, we'll laugh about what a close, close call this was. We won't tell Cassie, though. No need to worry her for nothing. We'll eat pizza and we'll drink sodas and then Janet and I will go upstairs and make love... it'll be excellent. Just dial the damn Gate and bring her home. Ooh, I bet she's pissed. I'll have to--'
"Chevron seven will not engage."
Sam could barely contain her scream. "Dial it again," she said, her teeth clenched.
Davis glanced subtly at Hammond, who said, "The Gate is obviously lost to us for the time being, Captain. I'm sorry, but it appears Dr. Fraiser is missing in action."
"No," Sam breathed.
O'Neill put a hand on her back. "I'm sorry, Carter."
Sam pulled away from him and stormed out of the Control Room. Hammond shook his head and returned to his office. The rest of SG-1 remained for a moment before slowly breaking away. An officer had been lost.
Sam sat in the driveway, drumming her hands on the steering wheel. The flowers in Janet's garden were standing silently in the darkness, as if they knew they wouldn't be tended any time soon. Sam hung her head, wondering how the hell she could possibly tell Cassandra that Janet, a woman she had come to think of as a mother, was missing. Lost to them. Stranded on an alien world. The captain rubbed the bridge of her nose and leaned back against the headrest.
She rubbed her face and looked forward through the windshield. Suddenly, to her right in the passenger seat, someone said, "I had a dream."
The blonde jumped, spinning and pressing her back against the door. Janet was sitting next to her, staring out the windshield and smiling. Lights were dancing across her face as if they were driving. "Janet?" Sam breathed.
The ghostly doctor turned her head and smiled. "I had a dream," she repeated.
"What about?" Sam asked.
"You." She indicated the exterior of the car. "The SGC. Cassie."
Sam smiled. "Oh? Was... it a happy dream? Or a nightmare?"
Janet shrugged, tugged on her sweater and said, "What does it matter? It ended happy. That's all that matters, right?"
"It's all that matters," Sam said, reaching out to touch Janet. The brunette dissipated at the brush of Sam's fingertips and the captain sighed. She gripped the steering wheel, alone again in the cold car. Finally, she opened the door and climbed out. She picked Cassandra's shoes up off the porch (the girl had apparently walked through mud at some point during the day) and carried them inside with her. "Cassandra," Sam called. "Jenny, I'm home."
Cassie appeared first, as always. She darted around the corner and attached herself to Sam's hips. "Sam!" she said, squeezing the blonde tightly. "Where's Mom?"
Another girl who was either into her twenties or about to be appeared next. Sam was grateful for the reprieve from Cassie's question for the moment. "Hey, Jenny," Sam said. "How much do I owe you?" She pulled her wallet from her jeans.
"Oh, don't worry about it. Janet will get me next time."
Sam fought back a wince. "Uh, yeah, I... why don't I just pay you now?"
"Well... well, she paid me last time. You guys only owe me about ten bucks."
Plucking two Lincolns out of her wallet, Sam thanked the girl and escorted her out. "Thanks, Jenny. See you tomorrow."
Cassie smiled. "I like Jenny. She lets me win at Scrabble."
"You're playing Scrabble again?" Sam asked.
"Yep. Mom thinks it'll help my word-usage." She sighed and released Sam's hips. "Where's Mom?" she repeated.
Sam looked into the living room, then looked down at Cassandra's wide, trusting eyes. Sam tried on a variety of opening lines. I left your mother on an alien world. Your mom isn't coming home. Sweety, there was an accident. Finally, she sighed and said, "Your mom... is on a mission. She won't be home tonight."
"Oh. When will she get back?"
"Um... um, you know... I'm not exactly sure. It-it's a long-term thing."
Cassandra shrugged and went towards the kitchen, Sam lagging behind and hating herself. Cassie chuckled and said, "Weird. You're here and Mom's off-world. Crazy, huh?"
"Yeah," Sam admitted. "Crazy."
That night, Janet was in the shower. She was standing in the stream of the water, her uniform getting soaked. She ran a hand through her hair and turned, smiling and stepping aside. Sam jumped at the sight, then shook her head and cursed. "Damn it. Again?"
Janet ignored the question. "You lied, Sam. You lied to our daughter."
"What was I supposed to say," Sam argued. "Sorry, sweetheart, your mom is on another planet and we have no hope of ever getting her home? I'm not going to say that to her."
"She might get suspicious when I never come home."
Sam clenched her teeth. "You're coming home."
Janet leaned against the shower wall, fiddling with the soap-on-a-rope. "How do you figure?"
"Casualties are not an option."
"Kawalsky, Frakes, Jonas Hanson... Hell, you and I wouldn't even have MET if it wasn't for Dr. Nimiziki's death!"
Sam closed her eyes. "Those were different."
"Because you weren't in love with any of them? You were in love with Jonas Hanson at one point," Janet said, turning and walking along the back of the shower stall. "Why'd you let him die? In fact... I think you pushed him through the Stargate, didn't you?"
"The natives threw him," Sam whispered.
Janet held her hands up. "Oh, okay, I see. That makes it all right." Janet sighed.
Sam turned. "This isn't about the past. It's unacceptable because it's *you*. You were on your second mission through the Gate, for Christ's sake. How is that *fair*?!"
Janet shrugged. "It's a cliche, but who said life was fair?"
Sam balled her hands into fists and opened her mouth, tilting her head back and catching the shower water in her mouth. She felt ten smoky columns on her back and knew it was Janet's ghostly touch. She swallowed, shaking her head. "Don't touch me," Sam whispered, closing her eyes. "It hurts too bad."
Janet slid her hands higher, rubbing Sam's bare shoulders.
"Don't... TOUCH me," Sam barked, turning and shoving Janet back. Janet, of course, vanished and Sam threw herself against the glass door of the shower. The door cracked and Sam yelped at the pain shooting through her wrist. She backed up, cradling her hand against her stomach. "Don't touch me," she whispered. "It hurts too bad."
Two Weeks Later,
Sam looked down at her hand, the knuckles still bruised where she had punched the DHD a few minutes ago. She chuckled at herself and pulled her knees up to her chest, hugging them close. It was poetic justice, really. They had traveled to this desert hellhole of a planet in search of information on the Ancients to help Jack with the sudden influx of knowledge he had suffered. The DHD had frozen, locking the Stargate in place and keeping them from dialing home manually.
"Don't be stupid."
Sam didn't even bother to look up. She kicked a sand dune away and said, "Shut up," keeping her voice low. Major Castleman was a few yards away and she didn't want him to overhear her conversation with Janet.
The invisible doctor knelt next to Sam in the dust, still wearing her blue uniform. Sam turned so she wouldn't have to see the other woman, but Janet simply changed where she was sitting. She crouched in front of Sam, crossing her arms over her knees. "You think this is justice? You're just going to give up because I'm gone? I've never known you to quit, Samantha Carter. Don't start now. Don't start being stupid."
Sam picked up a handful of dust and tossed it in Janet's face. The doctor didn't even flinch. "Don't be stupid, Sam. Don't start giving up now."
"I'm not being stupid."
"Captain?" Castleman stood. "You say something?"
"No," Sam said, standing up and brushing her bottom. "Not a thing."
O'Neill was still working on his little project when she got back. He'd had to take a small break to make the schematics so she and Teal'c could repair the DHD, but he was back at it with a vengeance. He barely looked up when she came in and sat next to him at the work desk. "Hello, Sir," she said. He didn't respond. "I just... wanted... to make sure you were okay. And to thank you for rescuing me and the rest of SG-1."
"I was wondering... Sir... if you... would possibly be able to make a device that could rescue Janet." He looked up. "I know. This thing is more important, whatever it is. But, Sir, I think with your newfound ability, we would be able to come up with something."
Jack shook his head stubbornly and bent back over his device.
"Yeah," Sam whispered. "That's what I thought you'd say." She stood and walked out of the lab, brushing by Daniel as she did.
Once O'Neill had contacted the Asgard and gotten the process reversed, everything quickly returned to normal in the SGC. Sam was sitting in her lab, doodling a planet surrounded by a purple cloud when Hammond entered. "Captain. Could I speak with you for a moment?" he asked, his voice soft.
"Sure," Sam said half-heartedly, turning to him.
"I know you've been especially worried about Doctor Fraiser's welfare, as are we all. I want you to know that, even though it seems unlikely we'll be able to find her--" Sam closed her eyes, "--we haven't given up hope."
Sam nodded. "I understand, Sir," she managed.
Hammond pursed his lips. "That said... I wanted you to be the first to know that I've made a decision. We'll be assigning a new Chief Medical Officer to the base--"
"What?" Sam barked, rising from her stool.
"Just for the duration of Dr. Fraiser's absense," he said, holding his hands up.
"You're replacing her," Sam said.
Hammond closed his eyes and decided there was no way around this. "Yes, Captain. She's been replaced. The new doctor will be here at 1145. I expect you to be present to welcome her to the base." He nodded at her, then left the lab.
Sam dropped onto her stool and stared at the experiment she'd been working on. "Her," Janet said.
"Shut up and go away," Sam said, covering her face.
"It's *your* mind," Janet said, pulling up a stool. "You can make me go away whenever you want." She paused, waiting to disappear. When she didn't, she continued, "Did you notice? Hammond said 'her.' The new CMO is a woman."
Sam sighed and sat up. "Point being?"
Janet shrugged. "Point being that maybe she can help you get over me."
Sam turned and slapped the avatar of her lover, her fingers passing harmlessly through Janet's gossamer cheek. "How dare you suggest that?"
"How dare you keep lying to our daughter? For the love of God, Sam, she still thinks I'm on a mission off-world! How long are you going to lie to her?"
"Until you're home!" Sam barked.
The PA system, Sam's computer and the telephone all activated at once. The ghost of Janet leaned over, her lips centimeters from Sam's ear and Janet's voice filled the SGC. "I'M NOT COMING HOME!" Sam covered her ears and ducked her head. Janet sat back and sighed. "The sooner you realize that, the easier it'll be to move on."
"I don't want to move on. I'm not ready."
"Get ready," Janet said before disappearing.
Jack O'Neill was sitting on the back of a chair in the briefing room, his boots planted on the side of the table. He rocked himself back and forth, apparently oblivious to his precarious position. He whistled quietly to pass the time, then checked his watch. 'How much time're we giving the new girl to get here?" he asked.
Sam refused to look at him. She kept her eyes glued to the report on the new Chief Medical Officer. Kiera Morgan. *Kiera*. It wasn't enough Janet had to be replaced, she had to be replaced by someone named after a freakin' science-fiction show. She sighed and flipped the file shut.
Sergeant Siler entered, followed by the guest of honor. "Sir? The new CMO is here."
'The new CMO,' Sam thought. She wanted to break Siler's glasses. Instead, she stood and turned to face the new arrival. Kiera looked a bit dissheveled, but Sam couldn't help but notice how beautiful the woman was. She had short red hair bundled in a ponytail at the back of her head, several curls framing the sides of her face. She smiled, wiping something from her chin with the back of her hand before extending a salute to General Hammond. "Sir," she said.
"At ease," he nodded. "Did you have trouble at the front gate?"
"Uh. Yeah, but it was all right," Kiera said, a slight Irish accent tinging her words. "Sorry about me accent," she said, brushing her cheek. "It tends to pop out when I'm nervous."
Sam forced a smile. Jack tried to casually ease his way off his perch, but the chair spun and gracefully tossed him into a heap on the floor. Kiera's eyes widened and she smiled. "Is he okay?"
Popping up, O'Neill brushed himself off. "Yeah, sure. Fine and dandy. Colonel Jack O'Neill, SG-1." He snapped off a sloppy salute and winked. "Looking forward to getting injuried many, many times in the future."
Kiera laughed. "I'll keep that in mind." She turned and pointed to the man standing in the corner. "You must be Doctor Daniel Jackson," she said, extending a hand to Daniel.
"Hu-yes... yes, I am." He took her hand and shook it quickly.
"Teal'c," she nodded. "How could I possibly miss him." Teal'c bowed and Kiera turned to Sam. "And you are the famous Captain Samantha Carter." She saluted.
Sam didn't return the salute. "I hope you have another job lined up."
Kiera's permanent smile faltered. "Um... pardon?"
"Another job," Sam said, finally snapping a salute and allowing Kiera to drop her arm. "We won't need you here after we rescue Dr. Fraiser. I'm just making sure you won't be left out to dry."
"Captain," Hammond warned.
Sam smiled and said, "I'm just... giving her a hard time, Sir. Nice to meet you, Dr. Morgan. Permission to be excused, Sir?"
"Ye--" Jack started.
"Permission granted, Captain," Hammond half-growled, glancing in Jack's direction. The Colonel shrugged as if to say 'my bad' as Sam left the room. "I apologize for Captain Carter's behavior."
"She's a great gal. You'll love 'er once she gets rid of that stick up her--"
A klaxon began to sound, drawing their attention to the window on the far side of the room. Kiera's eyes widened. "Is that--"
"It is," Hammond said, trying to hide his smile. "Would you like to see it in action?"
Kiera walked over to the window, looking down at the team preparing to go through the Gate. She pressed her finger to the glass and said, "Who is that?"
"Major Henry Boyd's team," O'Neill said. "Routine mission, so you shouldn't have to worry about casualties. Although... in this post, it's always a good idea to expect the unexpected."
It had been two weeks.
Two weeks had gone by in the space of a day. Sam punched the wall and cursed herself. It was two weeks later than it had been yesterday. That was time when she could've been working on getting to Janet. Or, God forbid, what if Janet had tried to contact Earth and couldn't get through for two weeks? Sam punched the wall again and pulled her hand back, looking at the knuckles. Poor hand. She would have to get a prosthetic before long if she kept up like this...
"Hand hurt?" Janet asked.
"Yeah," Sam said, shaking it in the universal way to relieve pain. She had stopped thinking of her constant companion as a ghost during the black hole ordeal. Now she was just... Janet.
The doctor sat on a stool. "You could go to the Infirmary. Make sure everything's okay."
"Is Warner on duty?"
"No," Janet sighed. "It's Dr. Mor-"
"Then I don't want to go," Sam snapped. "I'll be fine. I had that concussion last year, remember? You didn't know anything about it."
Janet nodded, eyes wide. "Right. And I bit your head off about it, too. You should have it checked out... if you just apologize to her for being so rude, I'm sure Dr. Morg--"
"I'm not apologizing to her," Sam interrupted again. "I don't want to be her best friend. I don't want to be her patient. I don't want to be her anything."
"You're her co-worker. You can't change that."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Leave me alone. I need to work."
Janet slid off her stool. "You want to grab some lunch?"
"About an hour?"
"You going to tell Cassandra?"
Sam's shoulders sagged and she looked at the wall. "Goddamnit!"
"It's a valid question," Janet said, returning to the lab. "It's been a month, Sam. She has to know something is up. And do you know how she'll feel when she finds out you lied to her?"
"She'll feel betrayed. She'll... hate me for lying to her."
Janet pressed her lips together. "Something you should've thought about in the first place, Sam. You've made your bed. Now lie in it." Slowly, Janet disappeared and Sam was alone again.
"Bye, Janet," Sam said to the empty air. "I'll see you at lunch."
Cassandra picked up the plates she and Jenny had used for their pizza and carried them into the kitchen. Jenny picked up the board game they'd been playing. As she was replacing the board in the game box, the door opened and Sam entered without a word. Jenny stood. "Hey, Ms. Carter," Jenny said, cleaning up the rest of the mess.
"Hi, Jenny," Sam said wearily. "Cass?"
"Dishes. She had a good time tonight." She wiped her hands on the back of her jeans and raised her eyebrows. "Need anything else?"
"Yes," Sam growled. She pulled the young girl forward and kissed her passionately, hands cupping the back of her head and keeping her from pulling away. As she kissed her way down the girl's throat, Jenny moaned. Sam kissed Jenny's lips again and whispered, "So long... it's been so long." She pulled at Jenny's sweatshirt, eager to be with another woman. Any woman.
"Ms. Carter," Jenny said. "Ms. Carter. D-do you need anything else?"
Sam snapped out of her fantasy and shook her head. "No," she said, her voice hoarse. She pulled out her wallet and handed the girl a twenty. "Thanks."
Jenny thanked her, called good-bye to Cassandra, and left the house. Sam sighed, pushing off the wall and going into the kitchen. Cassandra was standing in front of the sink, washing some plates. "Hey," Sam said.
Cassie nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
Sam closed her eyes. "A month ago, your mom went offworld on a mission. During that mission, we lost contact with the Stargate on that planet and she's been stranded there ever since. We haven't heard from her and have no way of contacting the people there. She's been declared missing in action."
"I know," Cassie said, finishing a plate and draining the sink.
Sam frowned. "You know? What do you mean you know? How do you know?"
"Daniel called and told me. Three weeks ago."
"You... y-you didn't say anything."
"Neither did you," Cassandra said, brushing by Sam and leaving the kitchen.
Sam started to follow, but she heard Cassie's bedroom door slam and knew she would get nowhere. She leaned against the doorframe of the kitchen and sighed heavily. "I screwed up."
"Monumentally," Janet agreed, sitting in her seat at the kitchen table.
"Think she'll forgive me?"
Janet picked at a meal only she could see. "I guess she will. She's a teenager. Everything's a crisis." She pursed her lips and looked up. "Although... She's already lost one mother. To lose another, and then not even be *told* about it... This is a pretty big crisis. I don't blame her for being mad at you." Janet started to fade.
"No!" Sam said, hurrying across the kitchen. "Don't you dare leave me!"
Janet became clear again and she looked at Sam. "Leave you? What was that thing with the babysitter?"
"Hormones," Sam said, a bit embarrassed. It was Jenny's fault for wearing that mesh shirt last week... the one that hadn't quite reached her jeans... She shook the image out of her head. "I was... I'm lonely, Janet. So lonely." She put her head on the table. "It won't happen again. I won't cheat on you again, even in my mind. Will you forgive me? Janet?" She looked up and saw the table was empty. "Damn it," Sam hissed. "Goddamnit." She stood and stumbled into the kitchen. She needed something to drink.
Her uniform was on fire. The flames were mostly concentrated around her midsection and her stomach. She winced as Daniel lowered her to the ramp and called for a medical team. "No," Sam whispered. Daniel glanced at her, obviously thinking she was delirious and helped her onto the gurney. "No," Sam repeated. "Not the infirmary."
Daniel frowned. "Sam, they're going to help you."
"Warner?" she asked, her voice a near-whisper.
"No. No, it's Dr. Morgan."
Sam closed her eyes. "No..."
The ride to the infirmary seemed impossibly short. Sam thrashed the entire way, the pain in her stomach fighting with her natural instincts to shun the new doctor. The redheaded replacement's face appeared over her and Sam growled, "NO... No, anyone else. No..."
Dr. Morgan pressed her lips together, then looked over Sam's body at the other people in the room. "Could you excuse us, please?"
Sam heard the doors to the infirmary open and close, then Morgan turned her eyes on Sam. "You listen to me, Captain. I know why you've been avoiding me and I know how you feel. I know all about the high school crap you've been pulling. But now, you've been shot by a staff weapon. You are dying. Unless I help you, you will die. Would you prefer that? Or would you rather put aside the teenage crap and let me help you?"
Literally a do or die situation. It took all of her remaining strength, but Sam managed to croak out a weak, "Help... me."
"Smart girl." She called, "Back in here, now!" The orderlies and nurses returned and Sam felt something being injected into her body. Morgan touched Sam's forehead and said, "It'll be all right, Captain Carter. Everything will be fine. Just sleep for now..."
The mansion on the hill was massive, overshadowing every other building in town. The sun glinted off it's windows, the trees around it seemed to bow reverently in the breeze. The front two windows made the house appear to have eyes, it's purple eaves looking like nothing more than two angry eyebrows. Sam climbed the hill until sweat poured from her brow and her muscles ached with every breath she took. But she made it to the top and she knocked on the huge stone door.
A curtain moved away from the window and Sam saw inside. It was magnificent; marble floors, huge chandelier hanging over the entry hall. A split staircase flanked a fountain containing a statue of Cupid. But the most impressive thing in sight was the woman who had pushed the curtain aside. Her brown hair was piled on top of her head, her face almost marred by too much make-up. Her lips parted and the curtain fell.
Janet threw the lock. Sam frowned and tried the knob. "Janet?" More locks fell into place. "Janet, let me in!"
Sam tried to push one window up, but it wouldn't budge. She peeked inside and saw Janet dashing towards the back. "The back door," Sam whispered. She ran around the veranda, jumping over the bannister at the end and searching for the back door. Finally, she spotted it. She grabbed the knob just as she heard a lock sliding into place. "Janet!" She pounded on the door until her hands ached, but she couldn't stop. "Let me in!"
Eventually, she turned and collapsed against the wall. It was then that she realized what had happened. She was inside the mansion. She stood, trying to figure out what had happened. Through the window, she saw Janet in her evening gown, running down the hill. "Janet!" Sam cried. She pulled on the locks, but they wouldn't budge. She was locked inside. She started to look for a way out, any way out... but the walls started to close in on her. She tried to hold them back, but they were moving too fast.
As the walls enclosed her, she fell to the floor and curled into the fetal position. "Janet," she chanted. "Janet, Janet, Janet, Janet..."
She opened her eyes slowly, scanning the room around her. Suddenly, she saw Janet standing next to her bedside. "He-ey," the petite brunette said. "How's my favorite patient?"
"Janet..." Sam exhaled. "I had the worst dream... you were... were left behind..."
The doctor smiled softly. "It wasn't a dream. I'm not really here." She touched Sam's temple. "I'm *here*."
Janet melted away as Dr. Morgan stepped through her, disspelling the illusion. "Hey, Captain. We were a bit worried about you for a while there."
Sam rolled her head, looking to the other side of the infirmary. "Did anyone else get hurt?"
"Yeah," Dr. Morgan said, checking her chart. "Major Castleman was zatted. Other than that..."
Sam threw the blanket aside and gingerly touched the bandage on her stomach. "So I'm good to go, right..."
Morgan put a hand on Sam's shoulder and pushed her back to the mattress. "No. You were hit by a staff weapon--"
"Grazed by a staff weapon," Sam corrected.
"--Injured," Morgan conceded. "You need to remain in bed for a few hours to let yourself heal. Secondly... I have a feeling that coma you were in was the first good night's sleep you've had in a long time. Am I right?"
Sam didn't reply. Dr. Morgan held her clipboard in front of her, the same way Janet always did. 'Does,' Sam corrected her thoughts, mentally kicking herself. 'The way Janet *does*.'
Dr. Morgan continued. "I want you here where I can monitor you. I want you to sleep ten hours before I release you."
"I'm fine. I can sleep in my quarters."
Morgan put the clipboard down and stared Sam in the eyes. "You *can* sleep in your quarters, but you don't. The bags under your eyes don't lie. You're making mistakes. Getting sloppy. The blast on your stomach proves that. Now, through no fault of my own, you and I are not friends. I can deal with that. But I happen to like Jack, Daniel and Teal'c. I like a lot of people in this assignment. And those people, whether you care or not, put their lives in your hands every time they go out into the field with you. If you want to throw a pity party for yourself, fine. I could care less. But when your grief gets in the way of people I care about, that's when I get mad.
"I'm not doing this for you. I don't mind if you work yourself to death. I'm doing this for the people who depend on you. Do you understand?"
Sam clenched her teeth, working her jaw. Finally, she said, "Yes."
"Will you sleep or do I have to drug you?"
"I'll sleep," Sam said meekly.
Morgan straightened and said, "Good. The infirmary serves lunch from 1100 until... oh. Look who I'm telling." She smiled and touched Sam's hand. "Get some rest."
Sam rested her head on the pillow and closed her eyes.
"Captain. You're here late."
Sam nodded at Walter Davis, then sat in the chair next to him. "Could you do me a favor, Sergeant?"
"I hope so. What do you need?"
"I want you to dial the Gate. To Sekhet-Aanru."
A smile slowly spread across the man's face. "Ahh... Captain, you know I can't dial the Gate without authorization..."
From behind them, a soft voice said, "It's all right." They turned and saw General Hammond in the shadows. "Dial it, Sergeant. You have my permission."
Sam nodded a thank-you as Davis began dialing the Gate. He returned the nod and turned, disappearing up the stairs. "Chevron Five, locked. Chevron Six is locked," Davis reported. Sam felt her blood begin to pump a little faster and kept her eyes on the spinning inner ring. The last chevron was the pyramid with an eye on top; the point of origin for Earth. It rounded the giant stone ring and finally came into place at the top of the artifact. The clamp closed over it and Sam felt her heart stop for a moment. Davis pressed his lips together. "Chevron Seven... will not engage." Softly, he added, "I'm sorry, Captain."
Sam brushed her eyes and whispered a thank-you. One floor above them, in the briefing room, Hammond looked at the dormant Stargate and cursed. He shook his head and went into his office. He'd been looking for an excuse to dial Aanru for days and had been grateful to overhear Carter's request. 'Soon, Captain,' he promised. 'We'll get her back soon.'
Janet was three years old. Sam looked down at her calculations and threw them into the fire. Daniel was up by the road with Teal'c, giving the Jaffa some basic driving lessons. Sam sighed and straightened her legs. It was 1969, almost thirty years before the Stargate program would be created and teams would start to regularly travel to other worlds. Thirty years before Janet would be stranded on Sekhet-Aanru.
"Hey, Carter," Jack said, tossing her a candy bar and taking a seat next to her on the log. He stirred the soup he'd poured into a thermos lid, then glanced at her. Noticing the pensive look on her face, he asked, "Whatcha thinking about?"
Sam considered not telling him, but she sighed. "Have you ever... wanted to do something so badly... but you knew how much trouble it would cause?" She ran a hand through her hair and looked down at her baggy hippy clothes. "I mean... everything in you is telling you to leave well enough alone, but you're fighting to shut that voice up so you can have what you want..."
Jack slowly sipped a spoonful of soup off his spoon, licked his lips and looked at her. "What're we talking about here, Carter?"
Jack straightened a bit. "Oh. Right. Of course."
"What'd you think I was talking about?"
"Nothing." He cleared his throat. "What about Janet?"
Sam shrugged. "She's on Earth. Right now, right this very second, she's home. It's been two and a half months, Sir. And it tears me up inside that she's lost. And all it would take is a note. A stupid little note that wouldn't even make sense to her until she joined the SGC. 'Do not go to P53-4Q9.' She wouldn't know what it meant. Time would hardly notice. I mean, we're basically doing the same thing, aren't we? Using General Hammond's note? Playing with time to benefit the SGC?"
"Carter, you're the one who--"
"I know," she snapped. "I know we can't use this to change the future. Grandfather paradox. I know. But... would it be so bad to make sure everything was better when we got home?"
Jack nodded. "You're right, Carter. Let's give Fraiser the note. In fact, let's write a lot of notes. 1995, tell people to stay out of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Or let people know about all the terrorist attacks we can remember. Oh, hey, why don't we just send Daniel a message? Tell him to leave the Stargate unopened and we'll never have to worry about the Goa'uld. I'll retire, you'll go into space with NASA--"
Sam tossed her note into the fire and said, "I get the point, Sir." She lowered her head and clasped her hands behind her neck. "I get the point," she repeated quietly.
The future, it seemed, was a storage warehouse.
The team hadn't been able to make their way home, instead being thrown far into the future. Everything was covered with large white dropclothes, probably protecting SG-1 from seeing any technology they might receive. Sam headed down the ramp towards the elderly woman who had greeted them, knowing she should recognize her. Suddenly, it hit her. "Cassandra!" she exclaimed, embracing her daughter.
As Cassandra returned the hug, she whispered, "She doesn't blame you... she's forgiven everything."
Sam pulled back and blinked. Cassandra smiled and then turned to the rest of the team and explained what had happened. A few seconds later, the Stargate was active and they were heading home. Cassandra touched Sam's hand lightly and she whispered, "I will forgive you, too. It will just take time."
Sam nodded, hugged Cassie one last time, then stepped through the event horizon.
Sam looked up and saw Dr. Morgan standing over her. Sam finished chewing her food and said, "Can I help you?"
Indicating the packed commissary, the doctor said, "The mystery meat seems to be popular today. You, ah... kind of have the only free seat. Do you mind?"
"Not at all," Sam said, wiping her mouth with a napkin. "I was actually just leaving."
"Don't," Dr. Morgan said, holding one hand up and lowering herself into the plastic chair across from Sam. "Wait. Please? I've been here two months and... well, it's getting hard to avoid you."
"I'm not avoiding you."
"What's my first name?"
Sam chewed her lip, she looked down at her lunch, then said, "I don't know Dr. Warner's first name, either. Doesn't mean I'm avoiding the man."
Dr. Morgan sighed. "My name is Kiera Morgan. It's a pleasure to meet you, Captain."
"Kiera," Sam repeated. She nodded, then indicated her plate. "Can I go dump this now?" She stood without waiting for an answer and threw the remnants of her lunch in the trash. Replacing the tray on the counter, she turned and saw that Kiera had followed her. "What? Do you want us to hang out together? Make charm bracelets? Be best friends forever?"
Kiera shrugged. "Well, we can't braid each other's hair... yours is far too short."
Sam brushed by the other woman, shaking her head. Kiera sighed and followed Sam into the hallway. "Carter."
"You're abandoning your lunch," Sam pointed out, pushing the up button on the elevator.
"I don't care," Kiera said. Sam stepped into the elevator and Kiera dashed in after her. The doors closed and Sam sighed, clenching her hand into a fist. "You were in love."
Kiera sighed. "It was obvious, once I realized the truth. You can't accept me because I'm filling Janet's shoes. And you were in love with her. Was it mutual?"
"I'm not gay," Sam said, pressing the floor for her lab.
"And neither am I," Kiera said. "The whole don't ask, don't tell thing. Right? We're in an elevator, Sam. Just you and me. Were you in love with Janet Fraiser?"
Sam worked her jaw and said, "Who cares?"
"It might help me understand why you hate me so much."
"I don't hate you."
Kiera scoffed, "Sure. All right." The elevator doors opened and Kiera stepped in front of them, preventing Sam from leaving. "Then have dinner with me."
"Have dinner with me. I'll pay. I want to get to know you."
Sam chuckled mirthlessly. "You've gotta be kidding."
"No. Look, Captain, there's about a grand total of eight women assigned to this base. It really sucks to have one of them hate you the second you show up for work the first day. Seeing as you and I may have to spend a lot of time together... have dinner with me. Give me a chance to change your mind about me."
Sam glanced down the hall and saw Janet waiting in the doorway of her office. "Let me think about it."
"I get off-duty at 1900. Let me know before then."
Sam nodded. The elevator doors slid shut and Sam went to meet Janet at the end of the hall. "I see you're back... How much of that did you hear?"
"All of it," Janet said, her voice cold. "You going to go?"
Janet turned and walked out of the lab.
An hour or so later, she returned. "Why are you going out with her?"
Sam sighed and pushed her paperwork to one side. "Because I'm lonely, Janet. You're not here. I feel like between Cassandra, the SGC, stressing about you... I feel like I'm about to be torn in a million different directions. My insides hurt every time I look at your picture or think of your face. I can't sleep. I throw up every night because when I *do* fall asleep, I have nightmares. And... and I need a shoulder to cry on. That used to be you, Janet, but... you're not here."
"Do you want me to leave?"
"Then break the date."
Sam came around the table and looked Janet in the eyes. She could see the gray wall behind her through the irises, but she ignored that disconcerting fact. "You'd go away if I went out with Kiera?" Janet nodded. "Forever? You're the one who told me to make nice with her! You told me that she might help me get over you!"
"I've changed my mind," Janet said, looking at the door. "She's not your type. I don't want to see you hanging around with her. If you do... I'll have to go."
"Please, Janet... the only thing that's kept me sane is talking to you."
Janet laughed. "*This* is keeping you *sane*? Sam... you're talking to thin air." She waved an arm through her mid-section to prove she was just an illusion. "There's nothing here! That's not sane!"
"Stop it," Sam whispered.
"You've lost your mind," Janet snapped. "You're cracking up without me. This so-called date is the last straw in your farewell to mental health. I'm glad I'm not here to see this. I thought you were stronger than this, but you're weak. You've shattered."
Sam growled and threw herself forward. "Liar! You're lying!" She punched the Janet avatar, suddenly realizing that this was not her lover. This was something evil. Something... wrong. Sam punched the ghost until it bled, then threw the unconscious body aside. As she knelt on the floor, chest heaving and sweat gleaming on her brow, reality came into focus. She had broken her hand pounding the cement wall, her uniform splattered with blood. There was no unconscious Janet on the floor a few feet away. Sam looked at her shattered knuckles, tears springing to her eyes.
"She's right," Sam said softly. "I'm losing it. But she was wrong about one thing." She stood and went to the infirmary, searching until she found Kiera. "I h-hurt my hand." Kiera's eyes widened and she directed Sam to a bed. As the blonde sat down, she said, "And I'm in big trouble. Mentally."
Kiera looked up, eyebrow arched. "Oh?"
"I'd... like to have dinner with you. I need help. Pro-professional help. And I think that having dinner with you would help me." She sniffed and finally met Kiera's gaze.
Smiling at Sam, the doctor nodded and said, "I'm glad. I'm very glad. Now... let's see what we can do about this bloody hand..."
After being released from the infirmary, Sam realized what she needed to do. 'Can it get me over her quickly... zero to sixty,' Sam thought, quoting a song she had heard once.
She sat perched on her Indian bike, staring at the road ahead. This old dirt road stretched on for close to seven miles with only three turn-offs. Those turn-offs all had roads leading up to them that were long enough that she could see someone coming long before they made it to the intersection. She put on her helmet, pushing it down her head and fastening the chin strap. She revved the engine and lowered herself into the seat. A few seconds later, the bike roared down the dirt road, a rooster's-tail of dirt and gravel rising behind her.
She tore down the dirt road, trying to silence the voices in her head. The dream had been the last straw; she was going crazy. Janet's voice filled her head, the sight of the brunette blinded her. Sam blinked her tears away, letting the wind whip through her helmet's visor and push the teardrops away. She got to the end of the road and stopped, balancing one leg on the ground and pulling off her helmet. She secured it under the seat and revved the engine again.
Taking off without the benefit of the helmet, Sam felt the wind whipping past her ears. Her eyes were burning, but she didn't care. Janet kept appearing at the side of the road, trying to wave her down. She could just barely make out Janet's voice, so she pushed herself harder. The bike was trembling between her legs. Finally, as if the speed and wind sheer had knocked Janet back, the world grew silent.
The bike protested loudly when Sam screeched to a stop, the back tire sliding forward. She straddled the machine and stood, listening to the wind blowing across the field. She searched the horizon and saw no sign of Janet. Replacing the helmet on her head, Sam drove home at a reasonable speed. 'All I need is an open road... and a whole lotta speed,' Sam thought, finishing the song quote. The ghost or whatever it was had been banished. Life goes on.
When Sam got home, she went immediately upstairs. She knocked timidly on Cassandra's door, pushing it open a bit. "Cass? Honey?" The two had barely spoken to each other in two weeks. Cassie was still upset about Sam's lying and Sam couldn't face the betrayal in the girl's face. "Cassandra, do you mind if we talked?"
"I guess," Cassie said from her computer desk. She typed something and turned the monitor off, turning her chair to face Sam.
The Captain cradled her wounded hand to her chest and stepped into the bedroom. She cleared her throat, then said, "I was stupid. I made a stupid decision and... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Cassandra."
"You weren't wrong," Cassie sighed. Sam looked up, surprised, so the girl continued. "Well, you geniuses at the SGC seem to have a pretty good track record. You were sure that you'd get her back soon. You were just trying to spare my feelings."
"No, Cass," Sam said. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I should have told you the truth--"
"I didn't want the truth," Cassie said. "My Mom and Dad died. You saw how I reacted to that... you know how anyone would react to that. Then a year later, my adoptive mom is taken away too? I would've preferred to not know that. The reason I got so mad at you is... the reason I got so mad at you is because when you told me the truth, it was like you'd given up. Like you knew we wouldn't get her home. So I got mad at you." She shrugged. "Pretty stupid, huh..."
Sam walked across the room and embraced her daughter. "No, honey. No, not stupid at all. What's stupid," she laughed, "is that we spent so long tip-toeing around each other. I love you, sweetheart."
"I love you, too, Mom."
Sam couldn't breathe for a second and pulled back, brushing the girl's hair out of her face. "Mom?" she asked.
"You and Janet have always been my Moms. It just took me a little while to find you."
Sam laughed and hugged Cassie again. "How old did you say you were?"
"Before we finish today," Hammond said, hands on either side of the microphone, "I have one other small bit of business. Please come to attention." The people in the room straightened at the order and Sam glanced at her teammates. This hadn't been on the schedule... Hammond continued, "From the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force in recognition of Captain Samantha Carter's outstanding work I hereby authorise her immediate promotion to the rank of Major. Captain, step forward."
Sam couldn't believe her ears. She turned and spotted Kiera Morgan standing in the crowd, eyebrows raised and offering a thumbs-up. Managing a smile, Sam walked up to Hammond's side. He turned and removed the bars from her shoulder. Her heart quickened; she felt naked once her rank was missing. No longer a Captain, not yet a Major... Just Samantha. She almost wanted to scream 'stop!' and run from the room. She wanted to be free. But she suppressed the urge.
Hammond said, "The United States Air Force recognises that you have fulfilled tasks and duties well beyond the responsibility of captain." Jack, who had taken position on her left, attached an oak leaf to her uniform. Something behind Sam's ribcage did a backflip and she inhaled sharply, smiling wide and scanning the room of smiling faces. "It is with great pleasure that I bestow upon you the responsibilities, the respect and the rank of Major."
As the crowd applauded, Sam spotted someone in the otherwise empty Control Room. Janet was standing between two chairs, wearing her full dress uniform. She straightened and snapped off a crisp salute. Sam did the same. Jack saw her and followed her eyeline to the empty room. "Who are you saluting?"
Crap. "My grandfather," she said. "He'd be so proud."
As she watched, Janet slowly disappeared. As Sam thanked General Hammond and O'Neill began his speech, Sam knew she wouldn't be visited by her missing lover again.
"I can't believe I'm doing this. Talking to you, I mean. I swore I'd never do this... made fun of people who have done this. But... everyone seems to think I've cracked up."
"Do you think you've cracked?" Dr. MacKenzie asked.
Sam chuckled. "Answer with a question. Classic."
MacKenzie smiled. "Okay, then. You feel as if you've lost someone of vital importance to you. And you have, in a sense. Janet is still alive, but she's unavailable to you. You tried to compensate for the loss, which is normal. You denied the loss by creating a false Janet that was available whenever you needed her. That is also normal. And now, you've come to the realization that Janet may not be coming back. It still hurts, but you've come close to making your peace."
"So I'm cured?"
"No, not quite. You still need to work through some frustrations. You loved Janet with all your heart. That's a difficult thing to say good-bye to. I'd like to schedule a regular meeting... nothing too formal, just a discussion of how you feel--"
"Sorry, Dr. MacKenzie," Sam said, picking up her jacket and rising off the couch. "I... don't do long-term psychoanalysis. I'll let you know if there's anything I need help with."
"Where are you going to go now?" the doctor asked, rising to his feet to lead her to the door.
Sam smiled. "I'm going to... a different kind of therapy."
Cassandra sat on the same park bench she and Sam had sat on just over a year and a half ago. On her left was Dr. Kiera Morgan, a woman from the SGC that Sam thought she should meet. On her right was Daniel Jackson, as close to an uncle as the girl had. In front of her, her dog Yellow was resting on his haunches. Behind her, Teal'c was examining the swing set and Jack O'Neill was watching a co-ed volleyball game taking place by the pool. The girl was surrounded by her very own Secret Service.
Sam arrived, ten minutes late and apologizing profusely. She briefly clasped hands with Kiera, a subtle gesture that read volumes to Cassandra, and turned to the guys. "Are we ready to party?"
"You betcha," Jack said, hoisting their supplies. "Got ham, cheese, cottage cheese, OJ, milk, sodas, crackers, grapes... everything a picnic needs except for ants."
Kiera put a hand on Sam's shoulder as everyone headed for the picnic grounds. "You okay?" she asked.
"Yeah," Sam said, putting one hand on the other woman's arm. "I am. C'mon, let's get to the picnic table before O'Neill snatches all the good stuff." She wrapped a hand around Kiera's waist, marveling at how much she had once hated this woman, and went towards the table where her friends and her daughter were setting up their picnic lunch. She looked at the sky. 'Wish you were here, Janet.' She blew a kiss at a cloud and took a seat at the table.
Things weren't okay. But they were better. And being 'okay'... well, that was just a few more miles down the road. She'd get there soon. For now, all she had to do was enjoy the ride.
To Be Continued in "Stranded, Book 2: You're Missing"