As Long As Forever (1/1)
I can't believe I'm opening this door.
I've been telling myself all day that this is stupid, that I have no reason to be worried. But I can't hold it in any longer, and there's only one person who can help me deal with this. There could only ever be one person I turn to, even if rules and regs didn't get in the way of my telling anyone else - 'your test results came back normal, Colonel, oh and by the way I'm sleeping with your 2IC, so let's just keep things professional between the two of you, shall we?'
Yes. That could work. In a quantum mirror world, perhaps.
Sam glances back as I come in, but only briefly. "Hey, Janet." It's a simple hello, and one we perfected out of necessity a long while back. 'Missed you, love you, want to hold you for days, feel better than I have all week just for seeing you here' - all of that in one fell swoop. She's working on something - I wonder, when is she ever not? - and she doesn't yet turn around, but I can feel her smiling at my coming in at long last. I forget the teams get door cams now... Lord knows how long she's been waiting for me to wrestle my emotions down and come inside, which means it's high time we started discussing this.
"He likes you." No preamble; I'm not sure I could take it, and Sam's not going to mind - it's one of the things I love about her. Straight to the point and no offence taken.
"He's my CO." She doesn't have to ask who we're talking about. It's like she has a sixth sense for these things, or at least between the two of us. "We've been on the same team for nearly four years. Of course he likes me."
"That wasn't what I meant."
Her back straightens and she does turn around, turns that smile on me. "I knew that."
She folds her arms - it's oddly cute when she does that, even something so ordinary. Amazing. "What d'you want me to say? That I didn't know? That I was going to let them lock us both up indefinitely because I didn't want to brave that particular hunch?"
*A 'hunch'?* I can't believe... "You didn't know? You risked the lives of the President and the Tok'ra on a *hunch*?" I have to say it. "About *Jack O'Neill?!*"
I get a laugh with that. "I guess it does sound a little dumb now, huh?"
"Sam, that's ridiculous! For all we know-"
"I am *not* a zatarc. And neither is the Colonel. Neither of us ever were." A flicker of worry crosses her face and she takes another step to me, reaching out a hand to touch mine in concern. "You don't seriously think that, do you?"
"No, I - oh God, of course not!" I close my hand around hers, so tightly I can feel my fingertips turn white. "It's just that... well..."
"He nearly got his brain fried rather than admit how he feels?" That laugh sparkles through the room. "He's Jack. Since when is this a new thing?"
I smile somehow, but I know she can tell my heart's not there. "Sam, we need to talk about this. How he feels..."
"How *he* feels, Janet. Not me." She pulls me over to her, behind the couch, against the wall. "Blind spot," she murmurs, because she knows I worry, and then she takes my face in those tender, calloused hands and kisses me, and it's strong and gentle and overflowing with that unfettered passion that is always Sam.
"I care about him. About *all* of them. But I love you." She strokes her fingertips down my cheek, and her voice is soft as she lays her forehead against mine. "And that's *never* going to change, okay?"
And that's enough. Somehow, miraculously, that's enough for me. Of course she cares about him - who wouldn't? For all his sniping and bad tempers, Jack O'Neill is a bright, sensitive man. I guess that's why I worry.
That and the fact that he spends two days out of every three with her, leads her jaunting halfway across the galaxy once or twice a week, has saved her life a couple dozen times... nearly had his brain torn apart for trying to hide how he feels about her...
I guess *that's* why I worry.
"It bothers you. The Colonel, the team, this whole..." she waves a hand. Why is it she can see all these things in my face just by looking at me?
"It doesn't bother me. It just..."
"Bothers you?" She smiles, and I suddenly feel so stupid. How could I think this beautiful, honest woman might betray me?
"I need to take a shower," interrupts my thoughts, and it comes back to me in a guilty rush - she killed someone today. Not a Goa'uld in battle, but someone that some part of her, even if it wasn't *her*, still loved. I have to wonder then, despite myself... could she do that for me?
"Uh, yeah... sure." I put those thoughts out of my head and smile back at her, hoping it looks as comforting as I mean it to be. "You want me to stick around and wait? Cassie and I are having ribs tonight..." The teasing catch in my voice works perfectly, and I'm rewarded with a grin that is one hundred and ten percent Sam Carter at her finest. Good God, she is beautiful when she looks at me like that.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world." She manages a quiet smile and squeezes in another kiss. "I won't be too long, but I really need to..." She loses that smile, as if she just can't hold it any longer, and I feel my chest tighten at the pain she's been hiding behind those blue eyes. "I just want to do something, you know? To feel... feel *clean* again, I guess."
"Oh, Sam..." What do I say to that? Why didn't I see this? Some doctor I am. "It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known, no one could have known..."
"We didn't test him, and I didn't think to ask." I can see tears now, even though she's fighting it. "Jack and I... Damn it, I nearly believed the whole thing myself! It should have been so obvious - if we were infected, why not him? Why didn't I just *think*?!"
I try to be comforting, although - surprisingly - in these situations it's not what I'm best at. "Martouf wasn't your responsibility. You don't know they would have tested him even if you'd thought of it."
"But I *didn't think of it!*" Her voice drops; she's going to cry, and Sam *hates* to cry. I can hear her try and blank it out, swallow back the pain despite herself. "And now... he's dead. He's dead because I killed him."
"You did the right thing, the only thing-"
Her voice is suddenly sharp, and her eyes harden. "And at least this way you can cut him open and find out what made him do it, right?!"
That should hurt: anyone would be surprised that I don't show it, but I know Samantha Carter... how she deals with things like this, how she takes so much guilt on herself that sometimes she can't help but spread it around. I've been on the receiving end of it enough times to know that half the time she doesn't even know what she's saying, or what she means by it. And never once has she let herself get away with it.
She pulls away from me, dragging her fingers back through her hair. I know this look. "Oh God, I'm so sorry..."
"Okay." I hold out one arm to catch her as she tries to turn away, and she must know I'm serious about not being upset, because I can count on one hand the number of times I've tried to kiss her on base and that's exactly what I'm doing now.
Or I would be, if Sam didn't insist on getting in first. And not a comforting kiss this time, but an apology, a desperate hold to prove that she never means to try and hurt me. "I'm sorry," she whispers against my lips, over and over again between kisses, and after a moment I can taste tears in the softness of her mouth. "I didn't mean..."
"I know." I slide my hand up to her cheek and hold her eyes with mine, gently wipe the tears away. "It's all right. You know it is. You don't have to worry." Hell, if it weren't for times exactly like this, we never would've been together. How can I place blame for something as wonderful as that? "I love you, Sam."
She nods that she understands, and no matter how it hurts to see her like this I can't help but smile at the gratitude in her eyes when she dares to look at me. I'm never sure she understands *why* I love her so much when she's like this - I'm not even sure I do, but I'm forever thankful that she trusts me enough to believe it anyway.
She swallows hard, but that soft, childlike voice is still thick with tears. "Janet... why didn't we check? Why?"
I touch my fingertips to her temple, gently smoothing her ruffled blonde hair into place. "We didn't think. No one did. Not even Freya, or the Colonel, and you know how paranoid he can be."
A tiny sigh brushes past her lips, and I know - she's given in to that logic, at least on some level. "Yeah, I guess."
"Sam?" I touch her cheek again and rest my hand gently on her shoulder; flash her a smile I hope is apologetic. "About him..." I hope this sounds as sorry as I mean it to be, because the last thing I want is to ruin what she has here through some dumb attempt at jealousy.
"Hey." She shakes her head quickly to reassure me, and instantly - at least on the surface - she's my strong, tender Sam Carter again. "It's only natural to be a little on edge, for both of us." She saw me blink on that one. Damn it. "What, you don't think it was just a *little* weird hearing that, even under those circumstances? Knowing you were standing there right behind me and I couldn't even turn and look at you?" She trails a hand absently over her face, and I can see a quick flash of guilt in her eyes when she feels the tears that've dried there. "God, I really need that shower..."
"Go." I'd bet money the next look on my face hasn't the least bit of comfort or apology in it, and equal odds that neither one of us cares. There's only so much of that either one of us can take, after all. "Before I decide to hang the regs and join you."
She smiles, and I try very hard not to lose myself in that look. "Okay."
I cried. She came in here looking for some sort of security, some good, solid reassurance that I'm in no way attracted to Jack O'Neill - or anyone else under this goddamn mountain for that matter - and I just stood there and cried over the whole thing.
Shit, I *hate* it when I cry. It's not just that I look phenomenally bad, about which I'm still touchy when Janet seems to be so much better at 'instantly-gorgeous' than I am - it's that I hate it. Really, really *hate*. I practically have a full-blown phobia about it. That's why I try not to do it unless someone close to me dies... which does seem to be turning into a regular event around the SGC the last few months.
Sometimes - not often, but sometimes - there are times when I hate the military.
She knows, we both know, that if it were Jack standing out there this would be so much easier. They need him and me both, enough to maybe overlook... that... in a way they're never gonna do with Janet and I. Hell, half the SGC probably thinks I've gotten carnal with my CO... I think there was a sweepstake going somewhere at one time...
I can admit it wouldn't have been outside the realms of possibility at one time, I suppose. After all, 'I' married him in at least one universe, but it's not the same. I remember, the first time I kissed her, knowing it wasn't going to be... knowing it was something *so* different to what I've had with guys. It wasn't on base, but I remember I wished it were to have some excuse to get away and get my heart beating again. Until she turned that smile on me.
"Sam, it's okay-"
"No, it's not okay! I don't know what I was thinking - I don't think I *was* thinking - oh, God, Janet, I'm sorry..."
"Hey." She grabs my hand and looks up at me from where she's still sitting, just as happy as ever, as if I'd only asked what she wants on the pizza instead of having just proven how absolutely dumb and reckless I'm capable of being.
"It is okay." She smiles - oh, God, what a smile. No wonder I lost it just now. "It's better than okay. Don't worry."
Don't worry. That *has* to be the after-lesbian-kiss line of the century. "You're kidding, right?"
"Sam, it happens all the time..."
I have to beg to differ on that score, and I can feel my mind kick into overdrive to compensate for the rush of emotions I'm not sure I'm ready to feel. I'm already working through the scientific permutations of that idea. "Well, the only way I can see that happening is if you're from a quantum mirror universe - one which would require this to be at least legal *and* for us to be married as well, in which case I really need to check things out..."
She laughs then. It's odd, I don't think I've ever heard her laugh quite like that before, even in all the times we've sat out here, every weekend we've spent together. I don't know quite what that means.
"I just meant women, in the military... well, it happens more than we hear." She tugs me back down to the step beside her, and I make a mental-overdrive note: Janet Fraiser is stronger than she looks. I always wondered how she keeps Colonel O'Neill in the infirmary so long after each mission - I guess I can see my answer now. I guess I'm also brilliant at avoiding the issue, which is that I've just tried to screw up my career and my shot at being useful to this world, not to even start mentioning our friendship.
And then she smiles again, more gently this time. I must look really upset for her to being acting like this, like I'm some animal ready to bolt any second. "Sam, no one needs to know. Don't ask, don't tell, and I'm not about to." She's got the confidence of practice in her voice, and I can feel my safe and normal world just drop out from under me.
"You've done this... you've done this before."
"Yes." So much braver than me - she doesn't even seem to realise what that one word could do to her. "No." Okay, so maybe she does. I don't get it. She looks down at my hand in hers, and then up at me. "Not while I've been enlisted. In college."
I swallow hard, or at least I try. This is new information. I really... I didn't expect this. "College... right."
"College," she agrees with a soft smile in her eyes. My mind is completely lost to that look now, and I can't find a damn thing to say.
"Okay," I manage in a voice that's very, very quiet. But this isn't college. And God help me, I don't think I care. I can feel my heart rate go through the roof as it sinks in... she's not hating me and she's not going to hate me. She's not even going to freak on me. The worst she's gonna do is -
Oh, my, I think I'm dreaming... either that or I'm sitting on the first step of Janet's back porch and she's kissing me like I never imagined. And if it isn't the second choice, just please don't let me ever wake up...
It's not that I care enough about it now to actually worry, but I can never help wondering what would happen to my 'famous' reputation if we ever did get found out. The great and the good Samantha Carter, USAF golden girl, drummed out of the service for falling for her doctor. I could make the headlines.
Well... the headlines inside Area 51, anyway. I'm an Air Force brat, I know how these things work. Thank God for the Stargate Program: not only did it give me the best job I've ever known, but it gave me Janet and bizarrely enough, the means to hide this. I'm convinced that General Hammond would never dream of discharging us from the Program; it's only the military-
Ha. *'Only the military'.*
I must really be screwed up right now...
I hope she's doing okay in there.
It never occurred to me, of course, that I'd be hanging here on my own for however long this cathartic cleansing is going to take, so I don't have anything around to occupy myself. I'd consider going back to the labs, checking on a few of the tests we started earlier, but Sam would only ask about it when I came back and anyway, I don't dare leave her alone. I don't *want* to leave her alone.
That seems to have become a recurring habit for me.
Instead I sink down to the bed to wait, waiting for Sam to finish up, to come back in from what they laughingly call a bathroom here and grin down at me with that irrepressible fun in her eyes. I've never known anything that could win out over that look, and I'd be willing to bet that even today can't change that. She'll need time, she always does, but she can bounce back from this. We both can - we have each other, even if no one else can see that. The last time we spent time together on base, and off duty, I remember sitting here almost exactly as I am now. Almost, with that one very important difference - the most important difference there's ever been in my life.
"Shh." She smiles tenderly down at me and I get lost in those eyes, in the love I can always see there. "One day all of this will be pointless. One day I'll ride in with you in the morning and kiss you goodbye in the Gate room and no one's gonna bat an eyelid." Sam doesn't do wistful very often, but this is a special rarity. "But right now..."
And then whether she's kissing me or I'm kissing her is pretty much irrelevant, because either way it's the most wonderful, amazing... I give up on words and melt into her arms, slipping my fingers through soft blonde hair and just praying they've not decided to install cameras in the bedrooms yet, because if they did then we're in a *hell* of a lot of trouble. Not, of course, that I could care right at the moment.
"Do you remember," her voice whispers into my ear, "the first day you kissed me?"
I can't help being a little taken aback, even if I am amused. This is Samantha Carter - it's nearly impossible for her to remember things wrongly. Especially this. "Sam, that first day-"
"All right," she grins suddenly, and I wonder how on Earth I could have doubted her. "If you need me to be totally specific..."
"It is pretty damn important," I tease back.
"The first *time* you kissed me, then."
I'm not sure why she wants me to think of it, but - "How could I forget?"
"I'll*never* forget," she says softly. "You changed my life completely, and I've never - I've never even thanked you."
That, I wasn't expecting. I keep my voice low, stroking back her hair with an idle hand. "Do you think you need to?"
"I don't know. Maybe." Something's up: my Sam isn't usually this emotional so out of the blue. "In case the next chance never comes around... yes. Maybe."
"You're thinking about Colonel O'Neill."
Sam knows better than to lie to me. She knew that way back when, even before I had less professional ways and means open to me. "Yes."
I should have known. "It wasn't you. It was him, and you found a way. That's what always matters."
She's still got that dark look of worry in her eyes. "And if it *had* been me?"
I touch her face tenderly to reassure her, and I don't hesitate. "Then *I* would have found a way. Not as fast as you and not alone, but I would have done it in the end. I would never let them leave you out there, *anywhere*, Goa'uld around or not."
She smiles then as she holds my hand in hers. "I know that. I just wonder if he thought the same thing."
I smile back, hoping to tease. "Well, I don't know that I'd be *quite* that reckless over Jack O'Neill..." Sam laughs, that sparkle coming back to her eyes.
"I hope not!"
I think my mind, or at least my memories, just jumped out of our collective skin. Oh God...
I freeze, thanking the Good Lord for once for the combat training that has me backed up behind the closet, against the bedroom wall before I even have time to think. What should I do? Pretend to be Sam? Totally out of the question - we sound nothing alike, and if I speak it's only going to make things worse. How the hell do I explain being in here? Real doctorly behavior, sitting on Sam's bed late in the evening already out of uniform, waiting for her to come wandering through probably half-nude...
This is *not* a good line of thought.
The shower clicks off into silence, and I let out a sigh of relief. Come on, Sam, we have an uninvited guest...
I flick off the shower, grab a towel from the rack and scrub it through my hair as I step down from the cubicle. I can't help a sudden smile at the memory of Janet's hands doing that same thing. I've always hated my hair, never been sure what to do with it, but lately... whether it's her efforts or Cassie's I guess I don't mind, but I'm starting to think maybe it's not so bad to look gorgeous occasionally. Especially if I've got a certain doctor to check me out while I'm doing it.
Since I'm going back to Janet's, it's probably not a good idea to go with USAF cammos; I've gotten used to that. Plain dark gray pants and sneakers on in less than a minute - the joys of Air Force conditioning - and then I'm shrugging my shoulders into a black t-shirt and yanking it down over my head. And thus as I stride through into the bedroom readying myself for talking about this whole few days properly - i.e. without my feeling the need to cry stupidly again - I completely miss the bizarre scene in front of me for a full five seconds. When I *am* finished dressing and able to see again, I'm totally convinced that something really odd is going on. For some reason, Janet is tucked right up against the opposite wall as if there were a Goa'uld on the other side of my closet and is staring at me madly, with only slightly more sanity in her gorgeous brown eyes than I usually associate with someone like Jack O'Neill, instead of the level-headed, doctorate-carrying physician who happens to be my lover.
She's mouthing something. What the hell? Something's scared the shit out of her, and damn it, I wanna know what and *where* it is. Where did I leave my zat gun?
"Hey Carter, you in there?"
I stride past her and out into the other room as quickly as I dare, and even though I don't even shoot one glance, *still* never since that very first night have I been so utterly, completely aware of her. Of us.
Of what shouldn't be.
Not to say that Jack and I *should* be, or that the idea of 'Samantha Carter-O'Neill' is any less wrong, but - well, it is sort of less... wrong. Militarily speaking, of course.
Sometimes the US military, for all its wonders and its opportunities, *really* sucks ass. Something that sadly, in this context at least, the Colonel who proudly taught me to use that phrase so eloquently is never going to be able to hear me say.
But it does. Even desperately, at times.
"You're here." If I weren't forcibly shutting down almost every recognisable emotion in an effort to stop the blind panic and mortification from setting in, I'd find it incredible that he can waltz straight into my quarters and then sound *surprised* that I'm actually where he was looking for me.
That I would really like to be anywhere but where he's looking, for once in my spotless career, is nothing that needs to be dwelt on.
"Umm.. yes sir. Just getting ready to go home." It's not a lie. And what do I care if it is? If I were allowed to say the truth I would. Janet and I cope: so can he.
"oh." He says it in that small voice that I think is supposed to give the impression of a lost puppy. Alien women go crazy, but I've never been able to see it. "I was just on my way down to check on how Daniel's doing, and I thought I'd... you know... drop in. See how you've been. With the whole... Martouf... thing." Sensitive-Jack. This is a rare sight. I feel so bad for him...
I plaster on a smile and drape my damp towel over the back of a chair. "I'm okay, sir."
"'Sir'." He nods like he's not really listening, like he's reminded of something, and I honestly didn't know it was possible to feel nauseous from hearing such a normal, innocent word. The half ton of total *feeling* he's added into it could be having that effect, though, I think, rather than the word itself. Or what comes next. "Look, Carter... *Sam*..."
Oh please no. Not 'Sam'. Because I know what goes along with 'Sam' and I don't think it could be anything other than disastrous right now. Especially in light of the fact that no one, nowhere, could call me 'Sam' like that the way Janet does, and I've suddenly, only just now realised that I've never told her that. Never told her that just the sound of her saying my name can make me go literally weak at the knees some days, never told her that dreaming her voice in my head is what keeps me sane most nights when I'm offworld. Never even told her... well, at least not outright, I guess... that I seem to have actually become capable of enjoying post-mission physicals like no one else would believe.
And now she has to just pretend not to exist while Jack O'Neill, cranky-but-nice guy and jackass that he is, tries to mould his supposedly buried feelings into something he probably thinks is approaching my idea of heartfelt emotional romance.
It doesn't just suck, but it blows, too.
"Sam..." I think I'm really, honestly going to collapse if he tries to say my name that way again. "About... earlier. Today. That zat... zat... the mind," he whirls a finger at the side of his head, "the mind-screwy-thing. Freya."
"The zatarc detector," I offer helpfully. Science is my rock, at least when Janet's not within direct line of sight.
"Yeah. That whole... thing. The thing where we lied."
I can't help but point it out. "We weren't lying, sir." I cling to that 'sir' like a liferaft. I would give anything, anything, possibly even the *Stargate* for Janet to be able to hear my thoughts right at this moment as surely as she can hear my voice. And Jack's voice. Oh God...
"No. We weren't. We were..." I would never believe it. Colonel Jack 'Hardass' O'Neill can blush. If I weren't so petrified this could be funny. "Oh, for crying out loud - it's there, okay? It's out."
I'm so very glad I'm half numb from this and the crying already or that one word could have stopped my heart cold.
"We can't change it, and we can't take it back. So I just... y'know, wanted to tell you - whatever you felt about it, that's fine. Sweet. Whatever. It's in your hands."
Two degrees and a PhD and I still have no idea what to say to that. Even from the first night I spent in Janet's arms, I felt like I'd lived my whole life being in love with her - no one could compete with that. Not even... as much as I like him, as much as I trust him... not even Jack O'Neill.
I'm just not sure how I say that without risking my career.
I try anyway. I really have to, don't I? "Um... Colonel... Jack... look - I'm sorry-"
He hasn't been my CO for four years not to notice my brush-offs when he sees them, *Thank God*. He waves his hand at me uncomfortably. "Yeah, well - okay, I better get goin'. You know how Daniel hates to be kept waiting."
"Hmm." God, I hope my smile doesn't look as fake as it feels. "Bye, sir."
"Hm. Bye." Oh great, we're even starting to sound alike. This is too much. He stood there while they retested me, he stood there and listened the whole damn time - how could what I said have been nebulous enough to think I did anything other than cover up what I know *he* feels for me?
The most heavenly sound in the world right now is when that door fits perfectly into its frame and I can lean back against it and finally know that we're safe, that that conversation is over and - God, I hope - never to be had again.
With my eyes closed for that long, blissful minute I don't see her slip around the wall: I don't even notice her move towards me until she's halfway across the room, and when I open my eyes her face is unreadable.
"Um. Wow." I can't think of anything else to say. "That was way past 'a little' weird." Janet smiles sympathetically, and I dare to hope it's genuine. God, to have to stand there and listen to all that... "I'm so sorry-"
"It's not your fault."
I come closer to her, try to remember where the cameras sit in the hope that we can work this through in private. "Maybe it is. Maybe I've ... I don't know, if I've done something to encourage this..."
"No." I have no idea how she's so certain, but I can feel that she is. Somehow. "I know you, Sam. You're beautiful, strong, intelligent..." she's totally ignoring my embarrassment here. "You're an *amazing* woman, and I know how easy it is to care about you... to fall in love with you."
She means it so much; and it hurts to admit this, but I know what else it is I can see on her face. "This thing he has - it honestly does bother you. A lot?"
"Yes." She looks at me honestly, resting her hand on mine. "But I can get over it. I think."
"Janet..." I pull her into my arms and hold her, running my fingers softly through her hair to trail down her cheek. "I love you. Always. You have to believe me."
That smile again. I love that smile more than almost anything. "That's never been a problem. This..." It's a measure of how open she is that she stops to put 'this' in words, to let me understand that this isn't easy. Isn't going to be. "I just need some time. Time to be on edge, let myself get cranky about this. Maybe give Colonel O'Neill a few extra booster shots a week to make me feel better." Her eyes shine when she's in this kind of mood, and I love it. "Think you can deal with that?"
What else am I supposed to do but grin and agree? I couldn't say no if she'd just asked me to open a wormhole through the sun and jump right in. "Yeah, I can deal..." I shoot her a teasing smirk. "For a while."
"How long is a while?"
Damn. Called my bluff. I'm finally laughing now as I lean down to kiss her again. "As long as... forever..."