You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned
"Isn't that the blond who showed up at your place last night?" the familiar twang rang in Janet's ears as she read through the papers in hand.
Dark eyes swept up and over until they landed on the lean figure threading gracefully between tables on her way to the pool tables, a tall dark figure in tow behind her. Her muttered, "Damn," was so soft the man across the table wouldn't have known she'd spoken if he hadn't seen her lips move.
He leaned forward in his seat, studying her over the edge of his drink, his look assessing. She was still a beautiful woman and still did things to his hormones that were probably illegal in most states. "Y'know, Jan," he murmured, stroking her knuckles lightly, a move he'd perfected over the years, "last night was--"
"A very bad idea," she interrupted sharply, and tugged her fingers free of his heavy handed effort at seduction, eyes dropping back to the document she was reading. Her gaze flicked up, the disapproving look reminding him of her less appealing traits. "Look, Keith, we both had too much to drink and it had been a hell of a day ... it's never going to happen again." That particular bit of stupidity was a near miss she had no intention of repeating. A hint of a jealous smirk twisted his mouth, reminding her of the pettiness she'd almost forgotten when they'd both been hurting and in need of comfort.
"Maybe it's already happening with someone else?" he suggested, his tone somewhere between a leer and an accusation. "Or do you just wish it was?" The leer took over. "Y'know, I wouldn't mind getting in on that action--"
Her eyes narrowed, but she landed on her temper with both feet. Reacting like that would only give him the fight he wanted. "Getting your relationship tips from porn movies again, are you?" she asked with mock good cheer before continuing more seriously. "She's a friend who thought she'd lost a teammate ... that's all. So get your mind out of your pants--" Though, God knew, that would be a first.
He had the good graces to flinch at the taunt, a muscle pulsing in his jawline. "You liked where my mind was well enough once upon a time," he grumbled resentfully.
"Well, clearly, I had no taste then," she shot back, then went back to reading with an impatient, "Now, back off. I'm not fighting about this with you."
He waited a moment, then snorted in annoyance as he watched her read. "Look, it's all there, okay. Dad's lawyer made sure that your part of our debts were the first ones covered by the estate. My share, plus anything I've incurred since the divorce doesn't get paid until you're in the clear ... and I've completely renounced any right to challenge the will."
Russet brows rose as she simply looked up, focusing on him until he flushed. She flipped to the final page of the document without comment and went back to reading.
"Christ, no wonder dad loved you so much," he sighed disgustedly. "'Never sign anything you haven't read,'" he quoted acidly under his breath.
"Your father was a good man--"
"Yeah ... but you're glad enough he's dead now, aren't you?" he jeered angrily. "Gets you out of everything."
She stiffened, drawing breath to flay him alive, then caught herself, forcing the explosion down to answer more calmly. "He was gone a long time ago ... which you'd have known if you'd ever visited him--"
"I didn't want to see him like that," her ex snapped, swallowing hard, his eyes glittering with the first trace of real emotion she'd seen since entering the bar. "And he'd rather see you anyway."
She shook her head sadly. He was hurting and she felt for him, but he still didn't get it. "You still think it's all about you," she exhaled. "He was your father," she wasn't trying to be cruel, but it was the cruelest thing she could have said, "and even after he didn't know who I was, he asked about you." She folded the papers, setting them on the table between them, wondering if she should have insisted he take over legal responsibility for his father when they first divorced, instead of taking care of the problem when he wouldn't face it. Maybe it would have forced him to grow up.
He rested a hand on the document she pushed his way, tapping a staccato tattoo with his fingers. If he'd thought he might get one last farewell night, he knew better now. Resentful at being denied, his lip curled in a bitter sneer. "Please," he growled, "I was the failed son. Only thing I ever got right was marrying you, and I fucked that up quickly enough."
She couldn't argue, so she just tapped the document. "These arrangements will do. I'll call my lawyer in the morning and tell her to drop the suit."
His shoulders heaved in a relieved sigh, some of the embarrassed anger draining away. "Since dad's estate's closed now, I won't have any reason to be back...."
"You've still got a long drive back to Denver to catch your flight," she reminded him, putting the final nail in the coffin of his fantasies.
A hint of a dark laugh, then he peered at her, shaking his head as he struggled to understand her in a way he'd never done before. "You wanted to be seduced last night, Janny.... Why?"
Janet flicked a look toward the pool tables, tensing fractionally as she watched Sam turn her way, afraid of being seen, but the blond only leaned over the table to line up a shot, her full concentration on the table, movements unconsciously graceful. "I always hated that nickname." Among others, she thought distantly, her attention still focused elsewhere.
He followed the line of her gaze, making an annoyed sound in the back of his throat as he realized where she was looking. "Guess that answers that question," he jeered.
"Don't be an ass," she grumbled as her gaze swung back to land on his stylishly perfect frame; hair by Pierre, body by Jake, appropriately rumpled cowboy look by Ralph Lauren. Even his accent was designer. Dear Lord, what had she been thinking? She hadn't even been young enough to consider it a youthful indiscretion, just simple stupidity.
He noted her assessing look and flushed. "Well, according to you, I don't know how to be anything else." He shoved down the explosion of temper, guilt rearing its head as he remembered how much she'd done for his father without asking for anything in return. "Look, I'm sorry." He swallowed hard on the tightness in his throat. "You're the last person I have any right to rip into." He looked at her then, the sadness in his eyes reminding her briefly of the man she'd once thought he was. "There's something going on in your head, Jan. I dunno what it is ... and I don't think you do either, but it's there." He glanced over, finding the blond at the pool tables with an assessing look. "Maybe when you figure it out you'll know why you could only marry a man you didn't love or respect."
Janet flinched as though struck, his name coming out breathless and startled sounding, "Keith--"
"Don't bother denying it," he chastised, momentarily feeling like the more mature one for the first time in their relationship. "I always knew," he admitted. "I used to wonder why, then tell myself it was the sex, but I never really did for you there either, did I?" He tossed the money for their drinks onto the table. "I guess played against my cheating it's what I deserved ... then again I wonder which one of us was crueler ... at least I knew why I married you."
She paled under the impact of the quiet words, amazed to find herself ashamed for her own part in the debacle of their marriage.
He glanced at his watch, then rose. "I've gotta go if I'm gonna to make that flight." His hope for needing to catch a later plane dead, he just wanted to get out of there. She reminded him of too many failings he would have preferred to forget.
She looked up, her tone sincere. "Good luck with the new job." As disastrous as their marriage had been, she hoped for the best for him.
"Yeah," he exhaled. "Look, I've got no reason to be back in Colorado, but if you ever need me, you know where to call." He reached out, stroking her cheek tenderly; a last gesture between them. "You probably don't believe this, but I do want you to be happy...." God knew, he hadn't been able to make that happen.
A moment later he was gone, leaving Janet nursing her drink and wondering if she could possibly slip out the back without being seen by SG-1. Dammit, they were supposed to at Mike's Place. Sam had been very clear about that plan and she'd counted on it when she'd set up the meeting with her ex-husband on neutral ground. The last thing she'd wanted was to have to deal with his attempts at finishing things from the night before and having SG-1 walk in on it. She was still contemplating several different strategies for a quick getaway when she realized someone was leaning against the wall behind the booth.
"So, was that a hello cheek-caress-kinda-thing or a goodbye cheek-caress-kinda-thing?" Jack O'Neill's acid tongued delivery ended any plans for escape.
"Colonel," she exhaled, sounding nauseous as she twisted to look back up at him.
Jack offered a good natured leer while Daniel shrugged apologetically "I tried to talk him out of coming over," the Egyptologist said defensively, sensitive enough to realize the doctor wasn't thrilled to see them.
"But I didn't figure you'd want to drink alone after Prince Charming left," Jack chuckled, stepping around to slide into the seat across from her. He noted the legal papers still sitting on the table with a raised brow, eyes drawn by the first few lines. "Guess that would be a goodbye cheek-caress-kinda-thing," he decided out loud. After a lifetime in the Air Force, he sometimes thought he read more quickly upside down than right side up -- a natural hazard of reading superior officer's reports while getting chewed out, he supposed. He looked up, ready to offer his sympathies. After all, he'd gone through his own painful divorce and knew how much blowback the subject still held years later. But she didn't look all that upset. Actually, aside from her obvious irritation with him, she looked pretty good. He frowned as he glanced back down at the document and read a few more lines, noting the numbers in question. "Whew, you really let that guy get you in this kind of debt?"
Janet tamped her temper down with a solid boot. It wasn't the time to let Jack O'Neill get a rise out of her, something he enjoyed entirely too much some days. "Gosh, sir, is there anything else you'd like to know? My favorite food, favorite color, investment portfolio, what sexual positions I prefer?"
Daniel choked on cue with that one, and even O'Neill looked taken aback.
"Just name your poison," Janet continued sharply. Okay, so maybe it was time to let him get a little rise out of her, she decided. She suddenly realized that Sam and Teal'c had wandered over, undoubtedly arriving just in time to hear her sarcastic remarks. She suddenly had to fight the urge to sink lower in her seat. Well, that was just great.
The blond smiled queasily as she met her friend's gaze. "Hey ... Janet, I didn't see you ... sitting ... there." Sam's efforts at playing dumb would have been more effective if she had even the tiniest bit of skill when it came to lying. Every eye flashed her way, expressions all equally doubtful, and she wilted. "Well, I didn't," she insisted even less believably.
"Save it, Carter," Jack chided. He hooked a thumb toward the front door. "Judging by her ex, Fraiser may be a bit gullible, but I don't think she's that dumb." He didn't give either woman time to explode as he leaned forward, elbows braced on the table. "So, tell me, Doc, how drunk were you when you married that guy?" He recognized a player when he saw one and that guy had all the signs. Fraiser's ex had probably hit on the organist before the wedding, the maid of honor during, and the waitresses at the reception after. Then apparently paid for it all on a credit card and stuck her with half the debt to boot. Really nice guy, Jack thought sarcastically.
"Colonel!" Sam yelped, while Daniel hissed and angry, "Jack!" and even Teal'c stiffened, one eyebrow rising disapprovingly.
Only Fraiser didn't react with the expected outrage, instead leaning her head on one hand, her expression ironic. "It's very possible a great deal of Chivas was involved," she admitted, "and possibly one or two Long Island Iced Teas ... maybe a Margarita or four .... some Tecate... a little schnapps ... the better part of a bottle of Belaya Rus Vodka...." Even Jack was starting to look impressed when she looked up and shrugged. "It was a long weekend ... I don't really remember it all that well."
"That's probably because you just listed enough alcohol to keep you drunk for at least a week," he pointed out helpfully. Sam and Daniel just stared, while Teal'c appeared to be considering her answer as though he was trying to translate an unknown, alien language.
"More like a month, sir," Janet corrected surprisingly cheerfully. She snatched the papers up, refolding them with a soft sigh. "So, I thought you guys were headed for Mike's Place," she said pointedly to change the subject.
"They ... uh ... kind of asked us to leave," Daniel murmured with a shrug.
"Yeah," Jack growled, distracted from any fascination with annoying her by the reminder of their ignominious dismissal. "Like it's our fault the bar got trashed."
"Well, you can't exactly blame them, Jack," Daniel pointed out, "I mean ... from their standpoint, I think it kinda was our fault ... y'know what with the Goa'uld looking like someone from the SGC and all...." He shrugged and drew a disgusted snort from the colonel. "...and then there was the field surgery in the middle of the bar ... the freaked bartender who's still in counseling ... the dead alien ... not to mention an Air Force Emergency Response Team ... I'm not sure I'd want us around after all that either," he admitted.
"Well, when you put it like that..." Jack muttered unhappily. He really preferred Mike's Place. Delvecchio's was nice enough, but it just wasn't.... He looked around, noting the tasteful decor and the polished wood floors. Just wasn't his kind of place somehow. Instead it felt like some fruity, college bar ... which was probably why Carter and Daniel were happy as clams. He made a face at his beer ... in a glass, not a mug. "Still, you'd think they'd have been a little more appreciative of all the business we've sent their way."
"That was probably offset by the alien bent on world domination," Fraiser reminded him practically.
"Y'know, you're no fun some days," Jack complained. The least she could have done was sympathize when he'd come over specifically to cheer her up ... well ... mostly anyways.
"Most days actually, sir," she informed him cheerfully, then glanced over at Sam where she was leaning against the booth, hanging back from the others. She'd barely spoken since her arrival and appeared to be studying the floor with profound interest. "Teaching Teal'c a new martial art?" she teased gently, nodding at the cue Sam still held in one hand.
Sam looked up, half wishing they'd all gone on ignoring her. Her gaze touched on the blue backed document folded on the table under the doctor's hand, not knowing what to think of the fact that her friend hadn't mentioned a past marriage or divorce ... or the fact that Janet had apparently been on the verge of spending the night with her ex. She had no right to any sense of resentment, but it hurt to feel her friend had left out something so important in her life. She suddenly realized everyone was staring expectantly and nodded. "I ... uh ... was just showing him the basics...."
"With the way you slice to the right?" Janet tsk-tsked and shook her head, her eyes glinting with teasing lights, purposely pushing more personal issues aside for the moment. The last thing she wanted to go through was a postmortem on her romantic past with the entire team in attendance. Hopefully teasing Sam would lighten things a little and help change the subject. "He'll never hit anything that way."
Jack rolled his eyes as he shared a bored look with Daniel. Great. Wonderful. Now, he'd have to listen to the philosophical wonders of pool. He made a face in his beer, then grinned as his favorite waitress wandered past in all her gravity defying wonder. Now, that made things more bearable. The occasional round of pool was okay by him, but it wasn't exactly sex when it came to holding his interest. The waitress on the other hand....
With the subject on safer ground, Sam relaxed noticeably. "Oh, you think you can do better?" she demanded, folding her arms across her chest, a competitive smile curving her mouth. Pool was safe and impersonal. She could handle that.
Janet responded with a challenging grin, relieved to see the other woman behaving more like herself. "Considering the current tally between us, I know I can."
"Them's fightin' words," Sam joked. "Sure you can back 'em up?"
"Oh, I think so," the doctor murmured, then looked up at the impassive face of the Jaffa. "Whaddya say, Teal'c, ready to learn how to play the game right?"
Fathomless black eyes swung back and forth between the two women. "Captain Carter insists it is an interesting game," he said noncommittally, sounding very doubtful about the concept.
Janet noted his distinct lack of zeal with a raised eyebrow. "You gave him a lecture on geometry, didn't you?" she asked Sam sarcastically, "then probably expanded it into calculus before he knew what hit him."
"Indeed," Teal'c confirmed.
"Just a little one," Sam muttered defensively.
"See, this is why I beat you," Janet explained, shooing Daniel out of the booth so she could slide out. "Pool isn't just math and physics, it's art...."
Sam rolled her eyes. "You're not that good," she snorted. It was a running joke between them, the familiar argument comfortingly routine ground for both women.
"Ah, but I'm better than you," the doctor pointed out cheerfully as she regained her feet and started toward the pool table.
"We'll just see about that," Carter responded, chasing after the doctor, any thoughts of teaching her teammate anything completely forgotten.
Which was just fine by Teal'c. As far as he was concerned, the game still appeared painfully inane.
All three men watched the women wend their way through the bar toward the pool tables.
"Don't mind me," Daniel muttered unhappily, "I'm just the guy who came back from the dead."
Jack shrugged, still nursing his beer as he watched the CMO and his 2IC begin their game, grinning at each other and having way too much fun. The waitress had wandered on her way again, and he needed something to concentrate on. Clearly there was something he was missing when it came to pool. "I've gotta give that game another try," he mused out loud. "They definitely look like they're having a good time."
"I do not believe that it is the game," Teal'c said with no noticeable inflection.
Jack frowned, trying to decide how to interpret that comment and not coming up with anything. "Well, what else could it be?" he asked at last.
Teal'c simply stared at him.
"Hello," Daniel interrupted any answers, increasingly irritated by the lack of attention at his own celebration. "Came back from the dead here and could use a fresh beer." Not to mention maybe one of his buddies to pay for it.
"Easy does it, Danny Boy," Jack murmured and waved at a passing waitress. "You don't have to shout."
"Wanna bet?" the Egyptologist muttered gloomily "And while we're on the subject of beer, Jack, there was most of a twelve pack of Sam Adams in my fridge. You wouldn't happen to know where it went, would you?" His tone indicated he had a pretty good idea what the answer was.
O'Neill froze. "I ... um ... well--"
"He took it since he said you would not need it any longer," Teal'c offered helpfully.
Daniel's eyes narrowed as they landed on Jack, who had the good graces to flinch. "Well, you wouldn't have ... if you hadn't ... y'know, come back from the dead..." He held up a hand to a passing waitress. "Another coupla beers here...."
Several hours later, the team closed out the Delvecchio's, all of them doing better for a few hours off, even if Daniel never did get Jack to pay for his beer. Jack had his Bronco and got stuck with the job of getting Teal'c back to the base, since it was on his way home, while Sam was driving Daniel, whose car was still in official impound.
"Talk to you later," Sam told Janet as she watched the other woman climb into her car, waiting until she'd pulled away before stepping into her own. A hint of a smile still touched her mouth. They'd played a couple of games of pool, jockeying between light teasing and concentrating on their shots, then joined the guys in time to get catch one of Jack's more outrageous tales of daring do from his first trip through the stargate -- and one of his more fictional to judge by the way Daniel had kibitzed in the background. Then everyone had wound up trading steadily more bizarre stories -- one or two of them possibly even true -- until the bartender threw them out to shut down for the night. The sheer silliness of things had definitely been good for the soul. She'd even wound up trading progressively more ridiculous stories of assorted passes men had made over the years with the doctor, the shared experience leaving them both laughing, while the men looked on in confusion ... clearly not getting the joke.
"Guess you and Fraiser have become pretty good friends," Daniel commented idly, interrupting her thoughts.
Sam glanced over at her colleague, her expression unreadable in the darkened interior of the car. "We get along okay," she said simply, then abruptly changed the subject. "Is it faster to take Cheyenne or Stratton to your place this time of night?"
Daniel looked over at her, startled by the question. "Probably Cheyenne with traffic this low," he answered, thinking she should have known that. But then she'd been a little distracted off and on all evening. Probably still a little freaked over his near death experience and pretending not to be, he decided. Sam was always one to hide her emotions and he couldn't think of anything else that might cause off and on again distance.
* * * * * *
Janet was waiting in the porch swing in front when the cab pulled up to her house. There was no logical reason for her to be sitting there -- Sam hadn't mentioned any intention of dropping by after taking Daniel home -- but she'd still been oddly certain the other woman would show up. As a result, it was no surprise when the blond climbed out of the cab and pushed the door closed behind her, not waiting until the vehicle pulled away before she started up the walk. Janet knew the other woman was aware of her presence when she slowed her pace slightly and stuffed her hands in the pockets of her leather bomber jacket.
"I ... uh ... just thought I'd go ahead and pick up my bike tonight." Sam climbed the first couple of porch steps, nodding toward the garage to indicate the Harley's storage place.
Janet nodded, leaning back and hooking one ankle over the other on the low wall that surrounded the porch. She snuggled more deeply into her heavy suede jacket to ward off the chill night air. "Ah ... well, it's still in the garage where you left it."
"Right," Sam exhaled. She nodded toward the garage door. "Is it unlocked?"
"No, but there's a keypad on one side. The pin's fifty-six, forty-one, twenty-two."
"Thanks," Sam murmured, but didn't move.
"Something else I can do for you?" Janet asked after a beat. They'd ignored everything with the guys in attendance, but she knew Sam well enough to be certain she was feeling a little hurt over being left out of the loop. She knew she'd have been feeling some resentment -- had felt some resentment when she'd heard about the whole mess with Jonas Hansen through the grapevine, even though they hadn't been nearly as close when that happened as they were now -- had their positions been reversed.
Sam nodded, accepting what she suspected Janet already knew, that retrieving the Harley was little more than an excuse. She stepped onto the porch, taking a seat on the low wall near Janet's feet, her hands braced on either side of her hips. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked at last.
A brief pause and then Janet asked, "That I was married or that I was divorced ... or possibly that my ex left me ass-deep in debt?" There were several choices available from her point of view.
Sam didn't answer for a moment as she tried to decide how to respond to her friend's wry tone. "All of it, I guess," she admitted at last, sounding a little hurt. "Isn't that the sort of thing friends are supposed to at least mention?"
"Yeah, I suppose it is," Janet allowed before quietly continuing, "but my marriage was over a long time ago. It hasn't been a part of my life in years...." She trailed off in the face of Sam's arch look. "Which is why you're probably wondering what was going on -- why he was here?" Janet said, then clarified the question before Sam had a chance to reply since a certain amount of what had been going on was embarrassingly and painfully obvious.
Sam shrugged, hesitant to admit just how badly she wanted to know why her friend had allowed a man who'd hurt her back into her life, no matter how briefly. And judging by the way her ex had left the bar the night before, it had at least been a brief return.
"My former father-in-law died a few weeks ago of a massive coronary," the doctor said baldly, then sighed softly, her eyes sad. "He was in a long-term care facility in Denver -- Alzheimer's...."
A sympathetic frown creased the blond's brow, but she experienced a moment of annoyance with the other woman for holding back something that had obviously hurt when she hadn't had to. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, her voice low and soothing in the darkness. She'd have understood why the doctor still cared for someone who'd once been a part of her life and family. "You didn't have to go through that alone."
Slim shoulders dipped in a tiny shrug. "I guess I figured telling anyone meant explaining everything else," the doctor admitted sadly. "And I didn't want to do that ... I didn't want anyone," especially Sam, "to know how badly I screwed up. My marriage was, to put it politely, a disaster." She took a deep breath, calming herself before continuing. "Keith was irresponsible in the extreme ... and he couldn't deal with how badly his father needed him. Despite the divorce, I took over as Nick's fiduciary when it was obvious he was going to wind up as a ward of the state if someone didn't." She blinked rapidly against the threat of tears, her lashes spiked by the unwanted moisture. "He was a good man ... and I couldn't let that happen...." She sighed softly, swallowing against the clogging her throat. The man she'd known had been gone a long time, and yet it had still hurt when he'd finally passed away.
"It sounds like you did the right thing," Sam offered the only thing she could think of to fill the silence.
"Sometimes I wonder," Janet admitted. "Maybe Keith would have grown up if everyone had stopped covering for him."
Sam shrugged, her tone practical. "Maybe," she allowed, though she doubted it, "and maybe a man who didn't deserve it would have wound up with no one to care about his needs."
Which had been Janet's fear in spades. She knew perfectly well how impersonal the system could get when there was no one there to look after a patient's best interests and she'd been terrified Keith would just wander off the way he had so many other times. "I couldn't take the chance of that happening," she said, her voice husky. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, while Sam simply waited, realizing the other woman needed a moment to gather her thoughts. "Keith left me with a mountain of debts when we divorced," Janet continued her story at last, her voice thick with embarrassment, "and Nick set up his will so that I was repaid off the top of the estate.... Keith was making noises about fighting the will, so I had a lawyer file suit against the estate for reimbursement for my time and money over the last few years. It would have been substantially more than I was initially allotted, so he backed down and had his father's lawyer draw up an agreement confirming the terms of the will and promising he wouldn't try challenge it."
Sam swallowed hard, struck by the pain in the other woman's eyes. "He couldn't let go of you, could he?" she whispered. It seemed obvious to her that Janet's ex had used her sense of responsibility to maintain some kind of tie between them long after she'd wanted out. "He used his father's illness to hold on."
Janet shrugged. "Yes, no, maybe," she gave an uneasy non-answer, then sighed and nodded. "Probably ... he didn't want the responsibility of being married ... but he also had a jealous streak ... liked to be in control," she admitted. "It gave him an excuse to maintain some level of contact, but it's over now ... he's got no hold over me."
"Interesting form of divorce," Sam said softly, "but I think it usually involves less nudity."
"The couch..." Janet breathed, wincing as though she'd been struck. She'd have given anything for Sam not to be aware of that bit of sheer idiocy, not that she wasn't intensely grateful it had been interrupted. "Not one of my better moments," she admitted, pausing for a second before continuing. "Keith was in Denver to close out the estate ... we were supposed to meet today, but he finished some things and came down early...." Or at least that was the story he'd given her. "He called me at the wake ... half soused on my front porch--"
"That's why you left so suddenly?" Sam murmured and Janet nodded, surprised her sudden exit had been noted considering how angry Sam had been.
"Yeah...." Janet ran a hand through her hair, gaining a brief moment before continuing the story in halting, disjointed phrases, "I think it was finally sinking in what he'd done ... what he'd lost.... He needed to cry on someone's shoulder." She shrugged, Sam's doubtful head shake making her feel even more defensive than she already did. "I probably should have thrown him out," she admitted, "but we got to talking ... mostly about his dad ... and one thing led to another...." She felt a wave of heat crawl over her cheekbones and felt the need to insist, "Normally, I wouldn't have let it happen, but I wasn't exactly in great shape..." She didn't go into how hurt and angry she'd been ... or how much she'd needed comfort her ex-husband had promised. Though why she'd believed it would actually work that way was beyond her when it never had before. She stared at her hands, studying them carefully, rubbing a nail against the base of her left ring finger, noting that the faint indentation was long gone. "Keith has exactly one good point ... get a little alcohol into him and he can be a good listener...." She shrugged, not really knowing how to explain what had happened or even why she felt she had to, but Sam's opinion was important to her. "I didn't really want him," she admitted, the words coming out unsteadily, "I just didn't want to be alone ... and he was ... familiar... safe ... which is really stupid all things considered.... So how pathetic am I?" she asked with false good cheer.
Sam shook her head. "You're anything but pathetic," she disagreed. "The guy's a creep who was trying to manipulate you--" The irony that she could see the pattern so clearly in someone else's life when she'd fallen into the same trap more than once herself didn't escape Sam.
"He was hurting over his dad--" He wasn't a monster, just a jackass.
"He was trying to get you into bed," Sam pointed out.
"That too," Janet sighed sadly. "I didn't sleep with him," she said suddenly, uncertain why she felt the need to voice that fact, but driven to make that point clear. "It came close but it didn't happen." Left unsaid was the fact that it most likely would have if Sam hadn't arrived when she did. That was a reality she had no desire to look at too closely.
A twitch of tension slid through Sam's muscles, then disappeared almost immediately. She'd been certain that was the case, but.... "I'm glad ... for your sake." she added hastily.
"Right," Janet exhaled, suddenly self-conscious. She looked back down at her twined fingers again. "Well, it's over now. He won't be back." The last tie between them was gone now.
"Sounds like that's the best thing," Sam offered. The guy -- Keith, she reminded herself as she tested the name mentally and found she utterly loathed it -- was clearly no good for Janet, no good for anyone by the sound of it. Which explained the wave of relief that slid through her in response to the knowledge that her friend was looking after herself. She just wanted the other woman to be happy. She deserved it.
"Yeah," Janet sighed, "the best thing...." She trailed off, falling silent for a long moment, then shook herself as if to throw off the less than pleasant parts of her past. "So how are you feeling?" she asked, needing to concentrate on something other than her own sorry romantic history.
"Sane," Sam assured her, "which definitely works for me." She heaved a sigh of relief, running a hand over her hair. "It's certainly a vast improvement over the other options."
"You were never crazy," Janet reminded her. "That was just a residual effect from what was done to you."
"Maybe," Carter allowed, "but I skated a whole lot closer than I ever care to again." She looked seriously at Janet. "And I hope you know that none of those thing I said to you were true." She still felt guilty about that.
"I know," Janet assured her, nonetheless touched by the reassurance. "How you feeling physically?" The tests had indicated no residual effects from whatever Nem did to the team, but she was still inclined toward caution.
"I'm good ... a little wired, but in a good way." Sam glanced over her shoulder toward the garage. "Actually, that's why I wanted the bike tonight," she said, explaining away the rationale that had gone with the real explanation. "I thought I'd take a late night ride through the mountains ... work off a little excess energy. Maybe even find an overlook and watch the sun come up."
A startled look touched Janet's expression. Used to seeing Sam obsessed with labwork and her job, it was the last thing she expected. "You sure you're up to it?" she asked uncertainly when she found her voice again. Sam had had a couple of long, hellish days. She couldn't help but question the wisdom of doing something that physically demanding.
"I'll be fine. I do it now and then just to blow off a little steam. The roads are good and they're usually pretty empty late at night." She pushed off her makeshift seat, stuffing her hands in her pockets as she stood. "And the drive is really beautiful ... like a different world." Even on Earth, she preferred places that felt like somewhere else.
"Well, be careful," the doctor reminded her and pushed to her feet, taking Sam's cue that she was ready to leave. "I'll come down with you and lock up after you're done."
Sam nodded her gratitude, then bounded down the stairs, moving gracefully, Janet close behind her. She was halfway down when she suddenly spun, forcing the doctor to pull up short or send them both sprawling. "Why don't you come with me?" she invited on impulse. She knew she needed to get away from it all after the past few days, and she was willing to bet it would be good for the other woman as well.
"What?" Janet yelped, then clarified, "You mean on a motorcycle?" She sounded very uncertain about the entire proposition.
Sam nodded eagerly. "It's more than powerful enough to handle two people...."
"I don't think so," Janet said, leery of the entire idea. She wasn't a motorcycle person.
"You sure?" Sam double checked. "I think you'd like it," she told Janet, her tone a tantalizing mix of teasing and inviting.
Janet shook her head. "I'm really more of a car person. I find being surrounded by metal when going at speeds in excess of ... oh ... ten miles an hour, much less terrifying."
Sam laughed softly, the sound low and inviting. "You don't know what you're missing ... it's like flying...." Which was her ultimate compliment. She paused momentarily on the stairs, staring at Janet, waiting for her to change her mind. "And I wouldn't let you get hurt," she upped the ante in a serious voice.
And Janet was tempted. It was there in her eyes. But.... "I don't think so," she said at last.
"I understand." Her disappointment obvious, Sam turned away, taking the steps two at a time in her haste for the freedom of the road.
Janet hurried after Sam, tapping the pin number into the keypad to open the garage door, then closing it and relocking things after the blond rolled her bike out. The doctor turned, watching silently as her friend started the motorcycle, her lean frame cutting a rakish figure on the heavy machinery. She unlatched the helmet strapped to the back, then turned to look at Janet.
"You sure you won't change your mind?" Sam asked, her tone enticing. "We could just go around the block and if you hate it I'll bring you straight back." Except she couldn't envision anyone hating the freedom that came from riding on the powerful motorcycle. It was too real and too intense.
"Sam, I don't think--" Janet began, but the blond turned a pleading look her way.
"Just give it a try," Sam coaxed, holding her hand out in invitation, desperately wanting to share something very special to her.
Janet froze under the big-eyed, puppy dog look turned her way. "You don't get turned down very often, do you?" she sighed after a beat, a smile touching her lips when Sam flashed her a blank look. She really didn't have a clue just how high impact that look was ... thank goodness, or she'd probably wind up ruling the whole planet. God knew the entire SGC tended to bow down every time she flashed it.
"Come on," the blond said hopefully, still holding her hand out.
"Around the block and straight back if I hate it?" Janet questioned, her resolve weakening in the face of the look cast her way.
Her expression serious, Sam nodded. "I promise."
"I've probably lost my mind," the doctor muttered, but her hand met Sam's and the next thing she knew, she was slipping onto the bike behind her friend.
"Helmet," Sam said, passing it back to Janet and helping her strap it into place.
"What about you?" Janet asked worriedly as it occurred to her the other woman wouldn't have any protection.
Sam glanced back, a hint of smile touching her mouth. "I've got a spare at my place and it's on the way out of town. We can pick it up and be on the road in five minutes."
Janet flipped the face plate up, trying to sound stern as she reminded Sam, "Around the block and back here if I hate it."
"Right, right," the blond assured her, then reached out, snapping the face plate back into place. "Just hold on and lean with me," she instructed Janet. "I think you'll get a feel for it pretty quickly though." There was no doubt in her mind that the doctor wouldn't be able to resist the feel of the Harley once she'd tried it.
Janet clung to Sam's jacket at the waist as the blond flipped up the kickstand and revved the engine. A beat later, she found herself leaning closer and holding on more tightly as they turned onto the street, then clinging still more tightly as the machine accelerated just enough to give her a taste of the speed it was capable of.
By the time Sam had hit the second corner on their trip around the block, Janet knew she wouldn't be cutting the trip short. "Keep going," she shouted above the sound of the engine, her hands tight on the blond's slender waist, bodies pressed close. She could almost feel Sam's answering grin as she poured on the speed and just blazed right by her turnoff....